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OPT: F-1 Student Employment Authorization Application

General Information

F-1 students who have been enrolled in legal student status for a minimum of 9 months are eligible for up to 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization to be used as either pre-completion OPT or post-completion OPT by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

Types of Optional Practical Training:

  1. Pre-completion (before your program completion);
  2. Post-completion (after all degree requirements are completed);
  3. OPT "STEM" extension available to Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math students hired by an employer registered with the government's "E-Verify" Program. See STEM Designated Degree Programs to see if your degree is eligible.

Employment must be directly related to a student's field of study and appropriate to the level of education. You do not need a job offer prior to applying for OPT, and your job may be anywhere in the United States. You may also change jobs during the course of your OPT period. OPT may be used in "chunks" during vacation terms before completion of studies, or used for a 12-month, full-time period after completion of studies.

Application Information

When to Apply?

  1. For graduating students the earliest you may file your application with USCIS for OPT is 90 days(3-months) prior to the completion of studies, and the latest you may apply is 60 days following program completion (the ending date on your I-20). You should note that once you mail in the application to USCIS, it can take between two (2) to three (3) months for them to approve your application and send you the card. So plan accordingly. 
  2. Students applying for pre-completion OPT can apply no earlier than 90 days before their requested employment start date.

How to apply for OPT?

To apply for OPT-endorsement you will need to complete two forms:

  1. Form I-765: (DO NOT SUBMIT ON-LINE),  (click here for instructions on how to complete the I-765) and
  2. OVIS OPT Application Form:

Once you complete the online form, you will be asked to submit document copies in support of your application for an OPT  work endorsement.  These may be scanned into one pdf file and uploaded to the form, or brought to the OVIS immigration office as paper copies. For all OPT applications, these copies include:

    1. A copy of the I-765 form (use the revised 8/6/2014 form edition)
    2. A copy of your passport ID page;
    3. A copy of the front and back of your most recent I-94 card (if you entered the U.S. by land), or a copy of your admission stamp and electronic Form I-94 print-out if you entered by air or sea.  You can access and print your electronic Form I-94 here.

PLEASE NOTE:  If you are using a public scanner - a copy of the documents you are scanning may be retained on the computer attached to the scanner and might be viewed by others.  Please remember to delete your documents from the computer after you have sent your scan.

Once you return the required forms and copies to our office, it will take between 5 and 10 business days to issue you a new OPT-endorsed I-20. When your application is ready, we will e-mail you to come to the office and pick up the application. You will then need to mail the application, with a copy of the new I-20 form, to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. After you mail the application to USCIS, it can take between two and four months for them to approve your application and send you the card.

For a STEM OPT application, you will also need to submit:

  • an employer certification statement (see template here)
  • a copy of your transcripts or diploma, with a translation to English

Processing Times

Once you submit the OPT application by mail to USCIS, it can take between 60 and 120 days, sometimes longer to receive an answer. If approved, USCIS will send you an Employment Authorization Document(EAD). You may not legally begin your employment until you receive this card and the beginning employment date listed on the card has been reached. If your plans change after you apply the card and you will not be working after all, it is usually not possible to cancel the EAD card and request that the unused time be credited to your remaining eligibility (not to exceed 12 months.)

A note on Volunteer or College-Funded Positions

Please note that if your employment or internship is:

  • unpaid (as a legitimate volunteer position without any form of compensation and that has never in the past been filled by a paid intern or employee), AND,
  • it is for pre-completion OPT, not post-completion,
  • and or is funded by a Dartmouth College scholarship or grant,

then you do not need to apply for OPT. Likewise, for any pre-completion OPT that is an on-campus Dartmouth College position, you do not need an OPT authorization. All post-completion paid positions do require an OPT authorization, whether on campus or off campus. Please contact the Office of Visa and Immigration Services to verify that your position would qualify for an exemption from OPT.


Click Here for the OPT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Last Updated: 10/10/14