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What is Optional Practical Training?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status are permitted by the USCIS to work towards getting practical training to complement their field of studies once they have completed their program of studies.

“Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion). However, all periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT.” (from USCIS)

To learn more about OPT, you can visit the OPT information section on the USCIS Website.


On 4/12/2021, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) can now file their form I-765 online if filling under the pre-completion, post-completion and the STEM extension categories. FIU ISSS provides all the instructions and steps below. Please follow all the steps carefully- this submission is your responsibility and any mistake or omission on your part may cause your process to be denied. Please be aware that ISSS will provide courtesy advise once you have received the endorsed I-20 which we will provide.

Delays with your OPT Application? You have not received your receipt notice or your SEVP Portal Access information? READ HERE

Learn About New USCIS Flexibilities for Some OPT Applicants


Students are allowed to apply in their last semester of study 90 DAYS prior to the end of their last semester in their program and up to 60 DAYS after completing their program.

In order to be eligible for OPT, F-1 students must:

  • currently be in valid F-1 status
  • have applied for graduation prior to Post-Completion OPT request.
  • be physically present in the United States at the time of application
  • have completed two semesters of full-time enrollment to be able to apply for  Pre or Post-Completion OPT 

This is a time line that shows all the steps within the OPT process, from application to completion.  These steps are crucial for a successful and uneventful OPT experience! PLEASE take them into account ALWAYS!

IMPORTANT: DO NOT apply online for OPT with USCIS until you have received the Form I-20 with the DSO recommendation. Filing without endorsed I-20 may get your application denied.

USCIS is the agency that will be processing your application and it is your responsibility to comply with all application requirements.


90 days before your last day of class

1-Apply for Graduation

Please visit your MyFIU portal and apply for graduation before submitting your documents to ISSS. It is your responsibility to monitor your progress toward graduation and ensure you will graduate this semester.  If this requirement has not been met, your new OPT I-20 will not be processed.

If you suspect that you may not graduate, you MUST contact ISSS immediately and take action to request an extension of stay before program end date. 

2-View the ISSS OPT Workshop. Once you finish viewing, complete the OPT Quiz and print and sign the “Optional Practical Training Workshop Acknowledgement” that you will receive once you finbish the Quiz.  Make sure that you use your FIU email account to receive an email confirmation.

3-Obtain OPT Recommendation Form- Pre-Completion OPT or Post Completion OPT

  • This form must be completed and signed by an appropriate representative in your academic department (undergraduate major or graduate program) such as your Academic Advisor, Program Coordinator, Department Chair or Major Professor.  
  • Choose your OPT start date: The earliest start date you may request is a day after the end of the semester in which you graduate up to no later than 60 days after the semester end date.
    • For example:  You graduate fall 2021, the program end date is 12/11/2021.  You may select 12/12/2021 as a start date or, depending on your job search success, you may select an appropriate date as far out as 02/11/2022.


1. Request your OPT-endorsed I-20: Submit your documents to ISSS via the FIU ISSS PORTAL

2. Once you’ve logged into the portal, please select: F-1 Practical Training Applications > Post-Completion OPT Endorsed I-20 Request and upload the following docuemnts:

  • OPT Recommendation Form
  • Most Recent I-94
  • Passport
  • F-1 Visa
  • OPT Workshop quiz confirmation email (“Optional Practical Training Workshop Acknowledgement”)     

3. Once you upload all your documents, a DSO will process your OPT I-20 – allow 5-7 business days for processing.

 4. A DSO will email your OPT-endorsed I-20. Emails are sent to your FIU email account (please check your spam folder).

5. Make sure to sign your OPT endorsed I-20 (sign in ink and date) scan it to submit in your USCIS online application



VERY IMPORTANT: Instructions on how to submit Form I-765 online:

All FIU students will submit this application ONLINE. To file online you will need to set up a USCIS online account. Please visit the following USCIS website to set up your account:

As you move through the application you will be prompted with the documents required to apply. Please have the following documents ready to upload:

  1. Most Recent I-94: I-94 showing F/1 status
  2. Passport photo page (must be valid for at least 6 months) Special Exceptions only apply to Venezuelan citizens
  3. F-1 Visa stamp page- (visa may be expired)
  4. OPT-endorsed Form I-20
  5. Any prior I-20s that have CPT (if applicable)
  6. Any prior OPT EAD card (if applicable)
  7. Color photos – Specific instructions will be provided within the online application. Photos are accepted in .jpeg, .jpg or .png format. We recommend using the Photo Tool on that website to check your photo meets requirements.

VERY IMPORTANT: For detailed instructions on how to submit Form I-765 online, please visit: USCIS Online Filing Webinar: Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, for F-1 Students Seeking OPT

The following guidelines relate to the most confusing parts of the form and are offered as a courtesyonly.

Please consult an immigration attorney if you are unsure about any aspects of the USCIS online application.

  • Click on “File a Form Online” and then select “Application for Employment Authorization (I-765)”.
  • Filing Codes:
    • (C)(3)(A) Student Pre-Completion OPT eligibility category
    • (C)(3)(B) Student Post-Completion OPT eligibility category [use this code if you are applying for the 12-month work authorization after graduation]
  • Select “Initial permission to accept employment” Unless you have done post OPT before – If you did OPT under a lower degree – select “renewal…”
  • Name: please enter your name as listed in your passport
  • Mailing address: your EAD card will be delivered via postal mail. It is important to use a mailing address that will be reliable for the next four months.
    • If it is a friend’s address, then make sure to add their name to the “In care of name” field of the form.
    • If your mailing address changes before your OPT is approved, then you must inform USCIS directly otherwise you may not receive your EAD card.
  • Physical address: enter the address where you are currently living, if it is different from your mailing address. It is OK if this changes when your OPT application is pending.
  • Travel document: if you have a passport then it is unlikely that you will have a travel document
  • A-number: If you have done OPT before, then type the A-number (USCIS number) from your OPT EAD card
  • Social Security Number (SSN): please enter your SSN if you have one already.
    • If you do not have a SSN then you can apply for one as part of this I-765 online application. The card should arrive 2-3 weeks after your OPT is approved.
  • Employment Authorization Document or Government ID upload: we recommend you upload the biographical page of your passport, and your visa stamp (if applicable) into this section
  • I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status upload: upload your OPT-endorsed I-20.
    • Make sure you have signed the I-20 – in ink – in the student certification section. Please note: Student signatures on an I-20 that are electronic (typed or other digital formats) are not accepted by USCIS.
    • Upon receiving the OPT endorsed I-20, student must submit application immediately. USCIS must receive application less than 30 days after DSO OPT recommendation.
    • The OPT online application must be submitted to USCIS within 30 days of the DSO signature date on the I-20. If filed with USCIS after 30 days of the OPT I-20 issuance date, your application will be denied.
    • IMPORTANT: Contact ISSS if you for questions or concerns about 30 day rule
  • Additional information: in most cases no additional information is needed in this field
  • Review any alerts or warnings and double check all data before moving to the application fee payment. Once your fee has been paid you will not be able to return to edit the form. The application fee can be paid by credit or with debit card.
  • You should receive an electronic receipt notice by email shortly after you have successfully submitted the form and paid the fee. A paper receipt notice should follow in the mail within a few weeks. If you do not receive the paper notice in the mail, then you should follow up with USCIS. Non-delivery of your receipt notice is an indication that there may be a mail issue that could later affect your EAD delivery.

Step 4-Additional OPT Information

While on post-completion optional practical training (OPT), you will continue to be in F-1 status.  

For additional information on RFEs, SEVP Portal, Employment, and Travel, please visit the OPT Additional Information Page

Step 5- OPT REPORTING Information

When you get a job

  • Update SEVP Portal (your responsibility!) Additional information about how to report student employer information is available on Study in the States in both the SEVIS Help Hub and SEVP Portal Help section
  • Notify ISSS- Access the ISSS Portal , complete the Post Completion OPT Validation e-form (you will find this form under F-1 Practical Training Reporting) and submit related documents (Job Offer Letter and Description of Job-see below for information)
  • Receive a new I-20 once request gets approved

If you change jobs:

  • Update SEVP Portal (your responsibility!)
  • Notify ISSS- Access the ISSS Portal , complete the Post Completion OPT Validation reform, and submit the related document.
  • Receive a new I-20 once request gets approved

Step 6- If you are in a STEM field and want to extend OPT

90 days before your opt ends

More important information, documents & forms

Very important!

Non-immigrant students must remember to report employer information related to Optional Practical Training (OPT) in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Without this information, students could be viewed as having failed to obtain employment and potentially be considered out of status for exceeding permissible periods of unemployment while participating in OPT.

Mandatory for all those who receive their EAD Card

Please read this Important OPT Information to learn more.

Should you still have further questions after viewing the online workshop, you are welcome to schedule an appointment to meet with an ISSS advisor.