5 Tips to Make Sure Your OPT Application Goes Smoothly

LearnStartF-1 visa holders are required to return to their home country within 60 days of graduation. The only exception, besides a visa status change, is to apply for Optional Practical Training.  Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a special opportunity for international students to further hone their skills by working in their field of study.

Here are the eligibility requirements in order to apply for OPT:

  • You must be in F-1 status.
  • You must have enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year or will complete one academic year by the date the OPT approval begins.
  • You have not exceeded 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization.

If you meet these requirements, you are eligible to apply for OPT. However, the application process can be difficult. Here are 5 tips to make sure your OPT application goes smoothly.

    1. Do not wait for a job offer to apply for OPT. You are allowed to apply up to 90 days before your program ends and it is a good idea to allow the full 3 months for the application processing, processing in your international student office, and mailing.


    1. Make sure the job you take relates to your major or field of study. While on F-1 OPT, the work you will perform must directly relate to your major area of study. If you are starting a business, the majority of the work you perform must be directly related to your major area of study.


    1. Choose your OPT start date wisely. The “start date” is the date your work permission begins. You cannot work earlier than the start date, but you can start working later. As mentioned, your requested start date must be within 60 days after your program completion date. Changing the requested OPT dates after the application has been submitted can be very difficult, so choose your dates carefully.


    1. Complete and submit all of the required documents. They are:
      • Completed I-765 Form
      • Photocopy of all revised and previously issued I-20 Forms
      • Photocopy of passport identification page
      • Photocopy of F-1 visa page
      • Two passport photos
      • Photocopy of the front and back of your I-94 card OR your F-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information
      • Photocopy of previously issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (if applicable)
      • Check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
      • Completed G-1145 Form (for convenient email or text notifications of your application processing


  1. Mail your application within 30 days of the new OPT-endorsed I-20 being issued. Late applications will be denied.

Be sure to check with your school’s international student services office for full details about their approval process and for help receiving your revised I-20. Remember these 5 tips and your OPT application will go as smoothly as possible.

Posted by Victoria Troupe

Victoria is currently a marketing specialist with Envisage International. She has had the opportunity to live and study around the world, including Germany, Poland, and China. A native of Wyoming, Victoria received her Bachelor's degree from the University of Wyoming, her MBA from the University of North Florida and her Master's of Intercultural Communication from Fachhochschule Köln, in Cologne, Germany.

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