International Student Services

Post-Completion OPT: How to Apply

When To Apply | How To Apply | All About Your New 12-month OPT I-20 | Frequently Asked Questions

When to Apply

Please review the chart below to better understand when to apply for post-completion OPT.

 

Final Quarter Enrolled at UW When You Can Request OPT I-20 with ISS When you can submit your application to USCIS

You can apply for OPT with USCIS during a 150 day window – 90 days before your program end date and 60 days afterwards. 

Summer 2021 

Quarter End Date (will match I-20 end date for OPT application): 08/20/2021

Submit request to ISS as soon as possible.

Latest application to ISS with guaranteed processing: September 28, 2021

  • Within 30 days of your OPT I-20 issuance date. If the 30 days have passed, you need a new I-20. 
  • Earliest day to apply: May 22, 2021
  • Latest day to apply: October 19, 2021
Autumn 2021 

Quarter End Date (will match I-20 end date for OPT application): December 17, 2021

Early Submissions Timeline to ISS: August 27, 2021

Latest application to ISS with guaranteed processing: January 25, 2022

 

Per USCIS, students can apply for OPT within 120 days of their program end date through October 31, 2021. This only applies to autumn 2021 graduates. Thus, students can request an I-20 from ISS as early as August 19, 2021. 

  • Within 30 days of your OPT I-20 issuance date. If the 30 days have passed, you need a new I-20. 
  • Earliest day to apply: September 18, 2021
  • Latest day to apply: February 15, 2021
Winter 2022

Quarter End Date (will match I-20 end date for OPT application): March 18, 2022

Earliest submission date for ISS to process: November 26, 2021

Latest application to ISS with guaranteed processing: May 3, 2022

  • Within 30 days of your OPT I-20 issuance date. If the 30 days have passed, you need a new I-20. 
  • Earliest day to apply: December 18, 2021
  • Latest day to apply: May 17, 2022
Spring 2022

Quarter End Date (will match I-20 end date for OPT application): June 10, 2022

Earliest submission date for ISS to process: February 18, 2022

Latest application to ISS with guaranteed processing: July 19, 2022

  • Within 30 days of your OPT I-20 issuance date. If the 30 days have passed, you need a new I-20. 
  • Earliest day to apply: March 12, 2022
  • Latest day to apply: August 9, 2022

How to Apply

Please read the following instructions carefully. Although we in ISS provide information, the OPT application is your application. We do not approve the application or have the authority to influence the process. Please note that if you choose to travel, it could be difficult to respond to requests from USCIS about your application.

This page describes the application process – for information about reporting requirements or other topics after OPT approval, please review our Post-Completion OPT page.

DO NOT PAY USCIS FEE AND SUBMIT ONLINE APPLICATION UNTIL YOU HAVE AN ENDORSED OPT I-20 FROM ISS. 

Confirm enrollment for your last quarter.

Check to ensure you’re enrolled full-time in your final quarter.

If you are planning to be full-time in your final quarter, you should be in the credits indicated below.

Skip this step if your enrollment will be full-time for immigration purposes.
Full Time for Undergraduate Students: 12 credits
Full Time for Graduate/Doctoral Students: 10 credits
>= 1 cr 700 Thesis or 800 Dissertation
2 cr ENGR 601 (*CPT credit cannot be your only credit in your final quarter)

If you do not need to enroll full-time in your final quarter to graduate, please submit a Final Quarter Reduced Course Load Request form to ISS before submitting your OPT application.

Do your homework.

Ask ISS to Recommend your OPT

You cannot apply for OPT with USCIS without asking ISS to endorse your application.

DO NOT PAY USCIS FEE AND SUBMIT ONLINE APPLICATION UNTIL YOU HAVE AN ENDORSED OPT I-20 FROM ISS. 

Steps for requesting the OPT I-20

  • Pay the required ISS $85 Post-Completion Training fee and save a copy of the receipt/payment confirmation.
  • Prepare for your online or paper application by filling out the I-765 Form
    • We have an I-765 Completion Guide to help you fill out your form.
    • You can type or hand write your I-765, but please save an electronic version of your completed form so that you can upload it to the I-20 request form. ISS will review the information and provide feedback that you can consider when you submit a final draft to USCIS.
  • Determine what start date you want your OPT to begin.
    • The “start date” is the date your work permission begins. You cannot work earlier than the start date, but you can start working later.
    • Your requested start date must be within 60 days after your program completion date. For example, if you graduate or if your final enrolled quarter ends on June 12, your start date can be no later than August 11.
    • Changing the requested OPT dates after the application has been mailed to USCIS can be very difficult. Choose your dates carefully.
    • Your approved start date may be different from your requested start date, based on USCIS processing times.
    • Your 90 days of unemployment begin counting on the approved OPT start date.
    • Students graduating winter quarter are encouraged to select a start date AFTER April 1 of their graduation year to allow for future H1-B opportunities.
  • Once you have prepared these documents and determined your start date, complete the Post-Completion OPT I-20 Request Form

Request Post-Completion OPT I-20
An ISS adviser will review your request, note any items missing or needing to be changed on the Form I-765, and will issue a new, updated I-20 with an OPT recommendation printed on page 2.

You will receive an email from ISS with your new I-20 and feedback for your next steps with USCIS.

Apply for OPT work authorization with USCIS

DO NOT PAY USCIS FEE AND SUBMIT ONLINE APPLICATION UNTIL YOU HAVE AN ENDORSED OPT I-20 FROM ISS. 

There are two ways to apply for OPT authorization with USCIS:

The online filing option only became available in spring quarter 2021. We understand that students prefer this option and we have compiled information to better help with the process.

Filing a paper application instructions

ISS’s instructions for filing the paper application are available for your review.

Filing an online OPT application

  1. Create an account with USCIS. See their tutorial for support.
  2. Click on the box to file a form online.
    • Select Application for Employment Authorization
    • Read through the Form Overview Page. This is important information about your request to the U.S. Government.
    • Go through the steps to complete the application.
    • DO NOT SUBMIT UNTIL you have uploaded all required documentation (I-94 record, visa, passport, photos, OPT endorsed I-20, previous CPT or OPT I-20s, and previous EAD cards. If you submit your application and pay the fee to USCIS WITHOUT having proper information in the application, USCIS will deny your OPT application AND keep your fee.

Tips for Filing the Online Application 

  • Complete the form as best as you can. The form uses logic which allows you to skip the questions you don’t need to answer.
  • Your form will save in draft status for 30 days. If you start the application and realize you messed up your OPT dates or need to get new photos taken, you can take a break and complete the form later.
  • If you’re inactive for 15 minutes, you will be automatically logged out.
  • Make sure you pick the correct eligibility category for your form! (pre-completion = (c)(3)(A); post-completion = (c)(3)(B); stem extension = (c)(3)(C))
  • Make sure your files uploaded properly. Documents and photos can only be up to 6 MB and they only accept certain file types. If you are getting an error, check the error message and do what you need to do to correct it.
  • REVIEW! Always review your application before you pay the fee. If you pay the fee and submit, you cannot make corrections.

Benefits of Filing Online

  • All notices are posted to your account!
  • You have more control of the application.
  • Note: Students who file a paper application can also create a USCIS account. You can link your paper application and receipt notice to the online account!

After You Submit Your OPT Application to USCIS

Please review the after mailing instructions to learn more about next steps.

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 are employed on-campus.

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 (Review 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I apply for CPT and OPT at the same time?

Yes, this is common. One application does not affect the adjudication of the other application.

If you get a CPT I-20 from ISS after you mail your OPT application to USCIS, ISS can email a copy of your CPT I-20 to the government processing center, at your request.  Instructions for this process are provided with each CPT I-20 confirmation email.

I have heard there is a 60-day grace period after I graduate to depart the US. Do I have to leave if the government hasn't finished my OPT processing?

No. The 60-day grace period does not apply to students who are waiting for the government to process their OPT application. As long as your application arrived by the government’s deadlines, you can stay in the US and wait until it is processed.

What is my immigration status while my OPT is pending?

You are still an F-1 Student while your OPT application is pending. OPT is a benefit of F-1 status, it is not a new visa type or status.

If I change my mind and decide not to work, can I cancel my OPT authorization?

The answer depends on your situation. If you were issued a new I-20 with the OPT recommendation but have not yet mailed your application to USCIS, let us know via the Contact ISS form of your change in plans. ISS can cancel the OPT recommendation.

If you already mailed your application to USCIS, a request can be submitted to USCIS to halt processing. Your application fee will not be returned and we cannot guarantee that your request will be honored. Use Virtual Advising or submit a request via the Contact ISS form to get help from an ISS adviser.

If you have received your EAD card and wish to cancel the authorization, let us know via the Contact ISS form to notify us of your change in plans. A cancellation in this situation is highly unlikely. OPT applications are not meant to be cancelled.

I didn't submit my OPT application early enough, and I realize I might not get the OPT start date I requested. How do I know what date USCIS will authorize?

Unfortunately it is difficult to estimate. The authorization depends on when the application arrives and the workload at USCIS. If they process your application after your requested start date, they might push back the start date to their day of processing, up to 60 days after your program end date. However, there is no way to predict what date it will be.

I have heard that I can apply for a 'temporary' EAD card. Is this true?

In the past, students were able to apply for a temporary EAD card if their application was pending for more than 90 days. Processes have changed, and the government no longer issues temporary EADs. If your application is pending for more than 5 months, use Virtual Advising or submit a request via the Contact ISS form to get help from an ISS adviser.

I am a graduate student and I’ve completed all required coursework. I only have thesis or dissertation remaining. Can I apply for OPT authorization to begin before I graduate?

You can apply for either pre-completion OPT or post-completion OPT. There are advantages and disadvantages to consider when deciding which option works best for you. Here is an overview. We recommend you schedule an appointment with your ISS adviser to further discuss your options.

Pre-completion OPT

Pre-completion OPT is only valid while you are a student finishing your thesis or dissertation. The OPT start and end date must fall before your I-20 expires and your final quarter of enrollment.
Pros

  • You are not subject to the 90-day unemployment limit.
  • Your I-20 can be extended if you need more time to complete your thesis/dissertation.

Cons

  • You must continue to register full-time (which may or may not be a requirement from your department depending on your funding and/or defense quarter.)
  • When you graduate, you must submit a separate post-completion OPT application and another application fee.
  • There is the risk of a gap in employment authorization if you must submit a second OPT application and the timing is not perfect.
  • It is challenging to take advantage of the full 12 months of OPT allotted to you because of the dual applications.

Post-completion OPT

Post-completion OPT can begin either while you complete your thesis/dissertation or after you graduate. Procedurally, however, the OPT start date can only fall after the I-20 end date, so your I-20 will be shortened to the end of the quarter in which you submit the OPT application.
Pros

  • You will only submit one application and fee.
  • You are not required to register for the purpose of maintaining F1 status (though you must consult with your department about Graduate School registration requirements depending on your funding, defense quarter, and ability to apply for on-leave status).

Cons

  • You are subject to the 90-day unemployment limit, an added pressure if you still need to focus on your thesis/dissertation.
  • The I-20 cannot be extended. If you do not complete your thesis/dissertation within the OPT period, your F-1 status ends when the OPT expires, and you must travel and reenter with a new I-20 to continue your studies.