Initial 12 Month OPT Application

Initial 12 Month Optional Practical Training (OPT) Application

OPT is a benefit for F-1 students and provides for an initial 12-months of off-campus work authorization in their field of study in the United States. International students who have been enrolled full-time for a minimum of one academic year (considered to be 9-months or two full semesters) are eligible. We offer regular OPT workshops throughout the year presented by one of our IPO advisors.  You may register here for any of the upcoming workshops. Each workshop accepts up to 20 registrants. Our OPT presentation is available here


F-1 students must meet these eligibility requirements for OPT:

  • F-1 students must have been enrolled full-time for 9-months (or two full semesters) before eligible 
  • F-1 students are eligible for a total of 12-months of OPT per educational level (BA/BS to MS/MA to PhD).  If you previously applied for OPT for a “lower” academic level, you are eligible to apply for additional OPT if you have completed a “higher” academic degree (i.e. Master’s or PhD.)
  • ​12-months or more of previous FULL-TIME Curricular Practical Training (CPT) at the same academic level will eliminate any future OPT eligibility. Any previous full-time or part-time CPT under 12-months of duration will not be subtracted from Post-completion OPT.
  • OPT is automatically terminated when a student transfers their SEVIS record to another institution to begin a new degree program.
  • Unemployment is limited to a cumulative of 90-calendar days during the initial 12-month OPT period (weekends, holidays, and vacations are included in the 90-day unemployment calculation)
  • Internships, unpaid/volunteer positions, part-time positions (20 or fewer hours a week), or self-employment in your area of study can count as “Employment”
  • You CANNOT begin work (or volunteer in any capacity) until your OPT has been approved by the immigration service (USCIS) and you have received the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in hand
  • OPT applications to USCIS take approximately 3 to 4-months to process; there is no option to expedite your application
  • USCIS must receive the OPT application within 30-days of the OPT recommendation by the IPO; if the application is not received by USCIS within 30-days after the issuance of the OPT I-20, the application will be denied. (BE CAREFUL AS THIS IS THE MOST COMMON REASON FOR OPT DENIAL)
  • Do not mail in your application too early! If USCIS receives your application more than 90-days before your I-20 program end date, or more than 60-days after the I-20 program end date it will be rejected.
  • If your OPT application is returned to you or rejected, consult with an IPO Advisor immediately before resubmitting the application to determine if you need a new I-20, etc.
  • Do not submit your OPT application to USCIS prior to obtaining a new I-20 with an OPT endorsement from the IPO. Click here for the OPT Application E-Form.
  • Do not wait for a job offer in order to start the OPT application process; you do no need one to apply

You can file your Post-completion OPT application no earlier than 90-days prior to your Completion of Studies date (e.g. 5/9/19), and must file no later than 60-days (i.e.7/8/19) after your completion of studies date.

Completion of Studies:

  • Undergraduates – Last day of Finals
  • Graduates:
    • Non-Thesis track students: Last day of finals
    • Thesis/dissertation students: Decide with your Academic Authority (advisor or GPD) in your department. Important note: “Completion of studies” is not your graduation date or any date after graduation. It is considered the date that all degree coursework has been completed. It is also not to be confused with the date the Graduate School officially “signs off” and administratively confirms completion of all thesis or dissertation formalities

Remember: You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT!

1. Select your OPT Employment dates (must be within 60-days AFTER completion date)

2. Fill out the I-765. Click here for the I-765. Tips for completing the form:

  • Complete Form I-765: The IPO will look over your I-765 when reviewing your STEM OPT Application E-Form and will provide correction suggestions. We cannot review your I-765 during walk-in hours. Tips for completing the form:
  • The mailing address on the I-765 should be valid and able to receive your mail for 3-5 months after submitting your application. If using a friend or relative’s address, add your name to the mailbox. If you choose to use IPO as a mailing address, use the following address.

c/o IPO, UMass Amherst
70 Butterfield Terrace
Amherst, MA 01003

NOTE: If you use the IPO’s address to receive your I-797’s and EAD, please give us permission to open your mail per the OPT Application E-form. The IPO is not responsible for lost or damaged mail. Nor is the IPO responsible for postage errors  or undeliverable mail. The IPO will contact you when your documents are received.

3. Complete the IPO OPT Application E-Form to request the I-20 endorsement

  • Undergraduate Students: IPO will process the application within 7-10 business days.
  • Graduate Students: Submission of your E-Form request has been forwarded to your appropriate academic authority. Once submitted by the academic authority, the IPO will process your request within 7-10 business days and contact you.

4. Once contacted by the IPO that your OPT has been endorsed, you can pick up your new I-20 in-person or you can choose the eShipGlobal option.

5. Put together the application to mail to USCIS

  • Original I-765 Form (signed by you)
  • Two (2) passport-style photos. Print your name and date of birth on the back of photos
  • Photo requirements can be found on the I-765 instructions here.
  • Filing Fee: Write a personal check/money order to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Copy of passport ID page
  • Copy of your current F-1 visa stamp in your passport
  • Copies of your Current & all previously issued I-20s, including your new OPT endorsed I-20 (all pages)
  • Copy of your previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD) if you had any previous OPT
  • Most recent I-94 record. Click here to access it. 
  • Form G-1145 is optional but recommended: USCIS will e-mail and/or text you with updates regarding your OPT application if you include this form

6. Mail documents to the correct USCIS location based on the residential address listed on the I-765

       If Massachusetts address:          

Express mail & courier service deliveries (i.e. UPS or Fed Ex):
USCIS Dallas Lockbox
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

For U.S. Postal Service Certified mail:

        USCIS Dallas Lockbox
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

All other state locations, find the correct filing address here.

The Department of Homeland Security has indicated that failure to provide any of the reporting requirements mentioned above can result in the automatic termination of your SEVIS immigration record and corresponding F-1 immigration status. The IPO will not take responsibility for a student’s failure to update information accordingly and to adhere to these considerable OPT reporting requirements.

  • Any change in personal information (address, email, phone, name) should be updated in SPIRE
  • Submit a copy of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) once received
  • Any change in employment information (employer’s name/address, start and end dates, unemployment period)
  • If there is a change in position (job title, part/full-time)
  • If you change to another visa status to another category (i.e. H-1B, Permanent Resident) or plan to depart the U.S. or otherwise no longer using OPT benefits

Click on the OPT Reporting E-Form to report all changes. 


What visa status will I have during my OPT period?

You will continue to maintain your F-1 student immigration status while on OPT.  You will need to possess a valid F-1 visa in your passport for travel* during OPT, as well as an I-20 with an IPO travel signature no older than 6-months.  Your F-1 OPT immigration status while on OPT is contingent upon you maintaining full-time employment (20 hours or more) related to your field of study and appropriate to your level of education.

How long does it take for USCIS to approve my OPT application?

3-months to 4 months is average so please take this into consideration when applying.  For example, a student completing studies in May who wishes to commence employment immediately following graduation should apply as early as possible (90-days from completing studies).  You may not begin working legally until you have the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in your possession. Click here to check the status of your application on the USCIS website. It is not possible to expedite your OPT application once it has been received by USCIS.

What if I move while my OPT is pending at USCIS?

The U.S. Postal Service WILL NOT forward mail from the USCIS!  It is extremely important that the address you put on the I-765 application form be valid for the next several months. You can consider using a friend or relative’s address if your name is on their mailbox. You can also consider using the IPO address: C/O IPO, UMass Amherst, 70 Butterfield Terrace, Amherst, MA 01003 (please note that IPO is not responsible for postage errors that are not the fault of the IPO).

If you need to change your address while your application is pending you must do so directly with USCIS by clicking here. You should also update your address in SPIRE.

Can I travel outside of the U.S. while my application is pending at USCIS?

Travel while your application is pending but before your program end date?  This is generally fine as long as your documents (valid passport, valid visa, I-20 signed in the last 12 months) are in order and you return to the U.S. before the final program end date listed on your OPT I-20.

Travel while your OPT is pending and after your program end date? Yes, however as with all international travel there is risk. Your EAD is NOT a travel document so you should technically not need it. If you travel, be sure all your documents are in order (valid passport, valid visa, I-20 with travel signature—on OPT these are valid for 6-months only). Some ports of entry may request your EAD card, your approval notice, or confirmation of employment—lack of these documents may cause issues but are not technically required for travel.

Travel after you have applied for OPT, you have a job, but before OPT has been approved? Yes, however as with all international travel there is risk. Your EAD is NOT a travel document so you should technically not need it. If you travel, be sure all your documents are in order (valid passport, valid visa, I-20 with travel signature—on OPT these are valid for 6 months only). Some ports of entry may request your EAD card, your approval notice, or confirmation of employment—lack of these documents may cause issues but are not technically required for travel.

Travel once your OPT has been approved and you have a job? International travel for personal and professional reasons while employed on OPT should be routine with the following:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa
  • Valid I-20 form with travel signature obtained within the past 6 months
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is not required but highly advisable to have with you in case it is requested
  • Evidence of appropriate OPT employment such as a letter from your employer and/or pay statement/stub is not required but good to have with you in case asked for it

What happens if I do not finish my program before my OPT begins?

This is not entirely uncommon, especially for graduate students.  An example of this is when your thesis defense date is unexpectedly rescheduled or some minor revisions in thesis research are necessary.  Should this occur, you will still able to finalize your UMass degree requirements during your OPT period.  As long as you are no longer enrolled in coursework and making progress on completing your degree requirements as soon as possible and within a reasonable amount of time, your OPT will not be affected.  However, your OPT dates cannot be amended or “paused.”  Once the EAD card start date arrives, the OPT “unemployment clock” starts to “tick.”

Can I continue working on campus or maintaining my graduate assistantship once I have applied for OPT?

Very important, especially for graduate students:  You will no longer have legal work authorization beyond your date of completion of studies (see your program end date on your new OPT I-20 form).  If you intend to remain employed in any capacity at UMass you can only do so if your OPT has been approved and you have received the work authorization document from USCIS.  Please note: even if your UMass employment is exactly the same as it was during your studies you cannot continue to be employed without OPT approval.  Please consider this when selecting your OPT starting date.

Can I change the application or dates requested after I submit the application to USCIS?

Changes to OPT dates are almost impossible and not recommended after an application is submitted to the USCIS.  However, cancellation or withdrawal of OPT is possible if you do not plan to work.  No USCIS application fees will be refunded.  Speak to your IPO advisor immediately in these instances.

Can I do Curricular Practical Training (CPT) until my OPT is approved?

No.  CPT is not an option once you have completed your studies as you are no longer a student.

If I do another degree after my OPT, will I be eligible for another 12-months of OPT after that degree?

It depends.  If your new degree is at a higher educational level (i.e. Master’s or Ph.D.), then it is theoretically possible.  As long as you meet all eligibility requirements you could potentially have three different OPT authorizations for three different degree programs while in the U.S. (Bachelor, Master’s, PhD.).  Completion of a second degree within the same educational level does not entitle you to additional OPT, unless you were granted less than 12-months after the first degree.  For example, if you applied for/were granted only 4-months of OPT upon completion of your previous degree at the same academic level; you would still have 8-months of remaining eligibility for use after completion of your subsequent degree at the same level.  But this is only if you initial OPT application was approved for less than 12-months.

Can I work as a volunteer/an unpaid intern/part-time while on OPT?

Yes, current F-1 OPT regulations do allow for such employment, but the work must be at least 20-hours per week and not violate any existing Federal labor laws.  Students must be able to provide evidence from the employer that they worked at least the 20-hour minimum.

If you are working unpaid in a position that is normally paid, this is a violation of Department of Labor regulations. You should be mindful of this if taking an unpaid position.

What if I am unemployed for part of my authorized OPT?

Current OPT regulations allow for a cumulative 90-day unemployment duration within the 12-months of OPT.  If you are unemployed or between jobs for less than 90 days your OPT and F-1 immigration status is not negatively affected.  However, any unused OPT time not utilized while unemployed is not credited back to you.

I lost my EAD (after receipt of initial EAD), can I continue to work?

You may continue to have employment authorization until the expiration of the lost/stolen EAD. You must apply for a new EAD as soon as possible. Please contact the IPO.

My EAD never arrived in the mail, can I work when my start date arrives with my receipt notice?

You may NOT commence working until you have the physical EAD in hand, even if the start date has passed. You must wait until the replacement EAD has arrived. Please contact the IPO.

Use the OPT Reprint E-Form to request a reprint of your I-20. If you need to report updated employment information, use the OPT Reporting E-Form and request an I-20 there.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) launched a new SEVP Portal to assist F-1 students on post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM OPT.

  1. The SEVP Portal is optional. If you choose to open a SEVP Portal account, you still need to comply with the IPO’s Reporting Requirements for OPT and STEM OPT.
    1. Update personal information changes in SPIRE.
    2. Use the IPO’s OPT or STEM OPT Reporting E-Forms to report updates to your employment information.
    3. STEM OPT has additional reporting requirements that cannot be met with the portal and you must use the IPO’s STEM OPT E-Forms under STEM OPT Reporting Requirements.
  2. Once approved and your EAD start date is current, SEVP will send an email to your UMass email account listed in your SEVIS record. SEVP Portal emails are sent from: do-not-reply.SEVP[at]ice.dhs[dot]gov.
    1. Refer to information about creating a SEVP Portal account below.
      1. The IPO will not reset your SEVP Portal access or unlock your account.
  3. If the SEVIS ID is entered incorrectly more than three times, the account will be locked. The IPO does not reset your SEVP Portal access or unlock your account.
  4. Please make certain that you are only responding to emails and opening links from this trusted email address.
    1. Be careful of email scammers or “phishing” attempts. See further information about avoiding immigration scams, about common scams targeting international students, as well as information from UMass about fighting phishing.
  5. If you need an I-20 printed, please use the OPT/STEM OPT I-20 reprint form.

If you have any questions about the SEVP Portal or need assistance, call the SEVP Response Center at 703-603-3400 or email SEVP[at]ice.dhs[dot]gov. The IPO does not oversee the SEVP Portal and cannot advise students about it.

For more detailed about the new SEVP Portal information see: