University of Minnesota
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5 Steps to Apply for OPT

Getting Started

There are 5 main steps to completing the OPT application and reporting process. You will need to do several things to complete many of these steps. You should review the OPT workshop for more information about any of these steps.

Step 1: Request an OPT Recommendation from ISSS

You are required to take and complete the ISSS OPT Online Workshop. Go to MyISSS to get started. 

ISSS must recommend your OPT. We recommend OPT by issuing a new I-20 to you.

To request your new I-20, you must log in to MyISSS and submit the following items:

  1. Completion e-mail from Training Hub. You will receive this email only after you successfully complete the required ISSS OPT Online Workshop.
  2. Completed Form I-765 (follow ISSS I-765 instructions)
  3. Completed OPT Request e-form 

ISSS takes 7 business days to issue a new I-20.

Step 2: Assemble the OPT Application Materials

While you are waiting for ISSS to issue your OPT Recommendation I-20 (Step 1), you should assemble the other materials that are necessary for the application you will send to USCIS (Step 3).

Assemble these materials in the following order:

  1. Check or money order for $410, payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" for the OPT application fee. Do not pay the $85 Biometrics fee.  To pay $410 by credit card, fill out USCIS Form G-1450. Print it.
  2. Two identical passport-style color photos taken within 30 days of filing your application. Do not use a photo previously used for a passport or visa. Print full name and most recent I-94 number in pencil on the back of each photo. Place the photos in a clear plastic bag or an envelope and staple it to the application. Do not put staple holes in the photos. You can get a photo at the UMN Passport Office in the University International Center (331 17th Ave SE).
  3. All pages of original I-765, even if they are blank (keep a copy for your records).
  4. Photocopy of new I-20: page 1 with your signature and page 2 with OPT recommendation. Do not mail original I-20s.
  5. Print of your most recent electronic I-94. If you have a paper Form I-94 stapled in your passport (this is rare), photocopy both sides even if the back side is blank. Do not mail the original paper I-94.
  6. Photocopy of biographical page of passport.
  7. One photocopy each of as many as possible of the following that have your name and photo: entry visa stamp with a photo; U.S. driver's license or state ID; student ID; any previously issued EAD.
  8. Photocopies of pages 1 and 3 of all previous I-20s issued before June 2015, and pages 1 and 2 of I-20s issued after June 2015. Do not mail original I-20s.

Recommended but not required: Form G-1145 E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance. This form instructs USCIS to send you an email or text message when they receive your OPT application. This form should be attached on top with a paper clip.

Keep a copy (digital or paper) of all of these documents for your records.

Step 3: Mail Your OPT Application to the Appropriate USCIS Address

It is your responsibility to mail your OPT application to USCIS. 

USCIS must receive your OPT application no later than 30 days after the "date issued" on your OPT I-20. USCIS will deny an application it it is received after this date.

Mail the application materials in Step 2 by certified or express mail in order to track your package.

  • Mail your application to Phoenix, AZ if the address you put on the I-765 (page 2) is in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Guam, or the Commonwealth of Northern Marinara Islands.
    • For USPS Certified/Express Mail:
      USCIS
      P.O. Box 21281
      Phoenix, AZ 85036
    • For FedEx, UPS, or DHL:
      USCIS, Attn: NFB AOS
      1820 Skyharbor Circle S
      Suite 100
      Phoenix, AZ 85034
  • Mail your application to TX if the address you put on the I-765 (page 2) is in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Virginia, or West Virginia.
    • For USPS Certified/Express Mail:
      USCIS
      P.O. Box 660867
      Dallas, TX 75266
    • For FedEx, UPS, or DHL
      USCIS, Attn: NFB AOS
      2501 S. State Hwy. 121
      Business Suite 400
      Lewisville, TX 75067

Step 4: Wait for EAD To Be Mailed From USCIS To You

The points below answer the most frequently asked questions students ask ISSS while waiting for their EAD card. If you still have questions after reading these points, contact ISSS to speak with an adviser.

  • In fall 2019, it is currently taking 2.5 to 5 months for USCIS to process your OPT application and mail your EAD to the address you entered on Form I-765. 
  • To find current processing times for I-765 applications, go to z.umn.edu/usciscase. Under "Form" select I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. Under "Field Office or Service Center" select Potomac Service Center. You can also call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
  • Several weeks after you apply, you should receive a Receipt Notice (Form I-797) in the mail from USCIS. If you submitted Form G-1145 E-Notification, you will receive a text message or email as soon as USCIS receives your application.
  • If there is a question about your OPT application, USCIS will mail a Request for Evidence to you. If this happens to you, ISSS can help. Bring the Request for Evidence and a copy of your OPT application materials to meet with an ISSS adviser.
  • If you change your address while your OPT application is still pending, click here to submit the changes on the USCIS website. You must also include your current phone number.
  • You may not begin working until you have received your EAD card and the start date is current. This is true even if the start date you requested has passed and you have not received the EAD card yet.
  • You may not continue any on-campus employment after the completion date in block 3 of your OPT I-20, even if you have not yet completed your degree. Any on- or off-campus employment after this completion date must be with OPT authorization and with your EAD card.
  • The EAD card will show the dates of your employment authorization:
    Valid From = start; Card Expires = end

Step 5: Fulfill Your OPT Reporting Requirements

It is essential that you fulfill your OPT Reporting requirements.

GPS