International Student Services

Post- Completion OPT: After Mailing Application to USCIS

All About Your New 12-month OPT I-20

Program End Date

The program end date on your OPT I-20 matches your graduation quarter (in most cases).  The program end date marks the end of study and the transition to the OPT phase of F-1 status. 

You must stop working after the I-20 program end date if you have an on-campus job. 

The few exceptions when the program end date does not match the graduation quarter are:

  • Graduate students applying for post-completion OPT with thesis/dissertation remaining
  • Graduate students applying for OPT in their last enrolled quarter and doing the Graduate Registration Waiver Fee for the graduation quarter
  • Students who do not graduate as planned (students in this situation should contact ISS as soon as they learn they will not graduate as planned)

Page 2: Employment Authorization Section

The Employment Authorization section of your OPT I-20 shows your requested OPT dates. The actual approval dates could be different (See the USCIS Processing: What to Expect section below). 

If you have CPT authorization when you apply for the OPT I-20, the CPT authorization will also print in this section. Previous CPT authorizations do not appear here. An I-20 will only show current or future CPT authorizations. After the CPT authorization end date, CPT information no longer prints on the I-20. This is one reason why it is very important to keep digital and paper copies of all Form I-20s you’re issued.

Current Session Start and End Dates

You can ignore these dates.

The session dates on the I-20 are connected to the quarterly “SEVIS registration” process in which we notify the U.S. government that students are full-time. Depending on when you requested your OPT I-20, you might not have been included in our quarterly report to the government yet.

If you have been issued an OPT-endorsed I-20, you are in good standing and ready to apply for the benefit from USCIS.

Travel signature 

The travel signature is valid for six months (not one year) during OPT. 

USCIS Processing: What to Expect

Contact from USCIS

Your OPT application will be assigned a receipt/case number after it reaches USCIS.

G-1145: If you included the G-1145 E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance form, you may receive your case number by email or text message. Otherwise, expect to receive the number by mail–the I-797 Notice of Action.

I-797 Notice of Action: USCIS will send you a receipt notice (I-797 Notice of Action). This receipt notice:

  • Confirms receipt of your OPT application
  • Shows the receipt date
  • Shows your USCIS receipt/case number

Carefully review the receipt notice to make sure your name is spelled correctly. If it is not, contact your ISS adviser immediately. 

It may take several business days from delivery date for a number to be assigned to you. It is not uncommon for there to be a delay in the delivery notice saying that the packet was delivered and when USCIS issues the receipt with the case number.

RFEs, Returned, or Denied Applications

If you receive a “Request for Evidence” (RFE), returned application, or denied application, notify ISS immediately. Complete the “Have a Question” form. It may be necessary for ISS to provide a new I-20 before you can respond to the USCIS inquiry or resubmit your OPT application.

USCIS Case Status Online

You can use the case number on your receipt notice to check the status of your application online.

It is normal for your case status to say “case received” for most of the processing period.

Processing Time

Average processing time is 3-5 months. You can check general processing times (not case-specific) at USCIS’ website. Select “Form I-765” and “Potomac Service Center” from the dropdown menus in order to view processing times for I-765s submitted by F-1 students.

Expedited Processing Not Likely

USCIS rarely expedites OPT applications. ISS cannot contact USCIS on your behalf to request expedited processing; OPT applications are between you, the applicant, and USCIS. Here is more information about the USCIS expedite criteria.

EAD Approval Dates

The OPT approval start date on your EAD will be one of the following dates, whichever is later:

  1. Your requested OPT start date, OR
  2. The USCIS processing date (if USCIS reviews your OPT application after your requested start date)

The OPT approval year must complete within 14 months of the OPT I-20 program end date.

The OPT end date on the EAD is usually 12 months after the approved OPT start date.

The only exception is if you mail your application near the end of the OPT application window and/or USCIS processing is very slow. In this scenario, the end date might be 14 months after the OPT I-20 program end date (regardless of requested start date). Example–a student:

  • Graduates June 12, 2020
  • Requests OPT to start August 11, 2020
  • Mails the application to USCIS on July 10, 2020
  • USCIS takes 3 months to process, so doesn’t review application until October 10, 2020
  • USCIS issues an EAD for OPT approval with a start date of October 10, 2020, and end date of August 11, 2021. This student has lost part of their OPT year.

USCIS Online Accounts

USCIS online accounts are only issued when you apply for a benefit directly though USCIS’ website. Examples of the types of applications that might be processed online include applications for permanent residency.

Very few F-1 students have a USCIS online account number.

What Can You do While Waiting for Approval?

1. Don’t Worry About 60-day Grace Period

You may legally stay in the U.S. as long as your OPT application is pending with USCIS.

The 60-day departure deadline/grace period after graduation is not applicable to students with pending OPT applications with USCIS. (The 60-day grace period moves to the end of the OPT year as long as you do not exceed the allowed unemployment days). However, your application for post-completion OPT must be received by USCIS by the end of the grace period – be sure to apply early so that you have plenty of time to resolve potential errors.

2. Wait for EAD to Start Practical Training

You may not begin OPT activity until USCIS approves the OPT application and you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Authorized OPT dates will be on your EAD.

Your practical training supervisor must see your EAD card before you can start your OPT activity. 

3. Notify Your UW Employer (if you work on campus) of Your Last Work Date

Your on-campus work authorization ends on the last day of your final quarter. Your OPT I-20 program end date is the last date you are allowed to work on campus.
For more information, see our Graduate Checklist On-Campus Employment section. When your OPT is approved, you might be able to work again for UW if the job relates to your studies.

4. Learn the Rules to Maintain F-1 Status During Your 12-Month OPT Period

12-month Post-Completion OPT is an extension of your F-1 status.
Your F-1 status will be based on your OPT activity and reporting requirement, not full-time study.

Visit our Post-Completion OPT: After Approval page to learn about:

  • Required OPT activity reporting
  • What counts as “employment” or “OPT activity”
  • Travel
  • Study during OPT

5. Look for Your OPT Activity: Jobs/Practical Training

You can apply for jobs and accept job offers, but you cannot begin the actual OPT activity until you have your OPT approval/EAD card.

6. Forward Your UW Email to Your Preferred Account

Follow UW IT Alumni Resources guidance. Many matters concerning your F-1 benefits will only be sent to your UW email address.