OPT Tutorial

Please note that this is a guide and does not provide legal advice.


This guide is to help you apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), the year of work authorization all F-1 students are eligible for after they complete their programs.

1. Request forms

The first step to apply for OPT online is to request your OPT I-20. Complete the myPassport forms, which can be found under Employment > Optional Practical Training Application. You will need this newly issued I-20 to apply for OPT. After you complete these forms, an international student advisor will issue you an OPT-endorsed I-20.

2. Gather the necessary materials

  1. Digital 2″x2″ color passport photo that meets USCIS specifications
  2. A scan of your passport photograph page
  3. A scan of the front and back of any previous EAD cards (if applicable)
  4. A scan of any previous I-20s with CPT or OPT information (if available)
  5. A digital copy of your I-20 with an OPT recommendation
    • You must apply for OPT with this I-20 within 30 days of when it was issued. As a reminder, you must apply via myPassport to receive a new I-20 before filing for your OPT online.
    • The I-20 must be signed by an ISSS advisor and by you.
  6. Your most recent form I-94
  7. A credit card with which you can pay the filing fee

3. Apply online

  1. Create an online account with USCIS.gov by clicking on Sign In and selecting Create an Account.
  2. Select My Account → File a Form Online → I-765 “Application for Employment Authorization.”
  3. Select your eligibility code.
    • For the first year of OPT, select (c)(3)(B) – Student Post Completion OPT.
  4. Answer: What is your reason for applying?
    • For the first year of OPT, select “Initial permission to accept employment.”
  5. If you have ever previously applied for OPT, you will answer “Yes” to “Have you ever filled out Form I-765?”

4. Answer the questions as they apply to you

Keep the following points in mind:

  • For mailing address, you may use International Programs’ ISSS mailing address if you would like.

c/o WSU International Student and Scholar Services
P.O. Box. 645121
Pullman, WA 99164-5121

  • If you use our mailing address, you should answer the next question “No” and indicate your own address as the physical address.
  • Most F-1 students do not have an A-number or USCIS online account number, so you can indicate this. If you previously had an EAD, the USCIS number is your A-number.
  •  If you decide to have your EAD card sent to our office your WSU account will be charged for the FedEx shipping should you not be able to pick up the card in person.

5. Provide evidence

This is where you will upload the materials you have collected for the application.

  • Under “Employment Authorization Document,” if you have previously been issued an EAD, you should upload this here. Otherwise, you can upload the photo page of your passport.
  • The Form I-20 document should be the one issued from our office with the OPT authorization indicated on page 2.
  • If you are applying for Post Completion OPT (c)(3)(B): If you have had CPT or OPT previously, make sure to upload any I-20s or previous EAD cards showing these authorizations in the section for “Previously Authorized CPT or OPT.”

6. Additional information

Most students do not need to fill out anything in this section. If you believe you have a situation that needs to be addressed in this section, please see an international student advisor. Some common issues include an expiring passport, discrepancies between the I-94 and your travel history, and a change of status that occurred while you were in the U.S.

7. Scan and upload all application materials

Make sure scans are readable for advisor review.

  • An international student advisor will review your documents and create your OPT I-20.
  • You will receive an email when your I-20 has been created and is ready for pick up.
  • International Student and Scholar Services has a 5-business-day processing time after the academic advisor approves.

Employment reporting instructions

Immigration regulations require you to inform WSU of any employment or changes in employment within 10 days.

Please remember to update your employment information by using our online form.

Any periods of unemployment must also be reported within 10 days to your academic institution.

Failure to do this will result in a termination of your OPT and F-1 Status.

You may do all of this this at myPassport.

Frequently asked questions

You can submit your OPT application up to 90 days before and 60 days after your program end date. We generally advise students to apply as early as possible but in some circumstances it may be worth waiting. Please speak with an ISSS advisor if you have questions about your program end date or when to apply. Note however that a late OPT application may lead to unavoidable unemployment days or an OPT period of less than 12 months.

Good question.

  • For undergraduates, it is the day that semester grades post.
  • For graduate students with an assistantship it is the last day of the pay period for their final month (May 15, July 31, December 31); or the day grades post, whichever is later.
  • For graduate students without an assistantship it is the day grades post.

However, other factors may come up that complicate the decision, such as a graduate student taking advantage of the interim exam period. If you want clarification on your exact program end date please see an ISSS advisor.

No, you do not need a job offer to apply.

Yes. However, expedited requests are rarely approved. You are free to contact USCIS and make the request but our office thinks it is unlikely that you will see a change in your processing time. We cannot assist in this effort.

This is fine. You are still in status as long as you have a pending application for OPT. But you may not start working until you receive your EAD (OPT) card and the approved start date has been reached.

You are still in F-1 status while on OPT.

You must wait. You can’t start working until you have your EAD card and until the start date on your EAD card.

No. An F-1 student’s on-campus employment authorization benefit ends upon the completion of their program. To work on campus again you will need to wait for your EAD card and for your OPT to start.

Yes, you can. The regulations allow graduate students who have finished their coursework to end their program and apply for OPT early. However:

  • This requires that we shorten your program end date, which means you will lose any on-campus employment opportunities (such as an assistantship) until your OPT is approved.
  • You need to have a degree in hand to apply for the STEM OPT extension so it’s important that you complete your academic program while you are on OPT, ideally within the first 6 months.

A student’s OPT period must end no later than 14 months from their program completion date. This means a late submission or approval could result in less than 12 months of OPT.

Generally, roughly 90 days from the day they receive your application. On occasion, we see faster or slower approvals.

Your OPT must start during your 60-day grace period. While your exact start date is up to you, we’d suggest you consider the following factors when making your decision:

  • When will you submit your application? An early submission allows more time for processing and more options when choosing a start date. As a rule, the later you apply the further back you should push your start date.
  • How is the job market in your field? If you think you will need more time to find a job then it’s probably best to choose a later start date.
  • What are your plans during your grace period? If you want to take some time off prior to working you are free to choose a later start date.

No, graduate assistantships require full-time enrollment and full-time enrollment in a degree program is not allowed while on OPT.

We strongly discourage you from any sort of paid or unpaid work (volunteer or otherwise) on campus until you have your EAD card in hand and your OPT has started.

Yes, but the same OPT rules still apply: it needs to be related to your major. We advise students doing volunteer work to document their efforts (letter from supervisor, weekly journals, etc.) in case questions come up in the future. Also note that there are laws related to what is allowed as “volunteer” work and that the abuse of this sort of labor could put you or your company at risk.

CPT is not used to facilitate employment. CPT employment must be an integral part of the major field of study. Once you submit your OPT application you and your department are certifying that all degree requirements are done or will be done. For this reason our office cannot authorize CPT.