Applying for OPT

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 (go to MyISSS to get started) for more information about any of these steps.

Application Process

USCIS offers Premium Processing (faster service) for OPT and STEM OPT applications. Learn more.

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1. Request an OPT Recommendation from ISSS

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

To request an I-20 with OPT recommendation, log in to MyISSS and complete the OPT Request form. You will be required to complete the ISSS OPT Online Workshop before submitting your OPT Request. The link to the workshop is only available in the e-form.

ISSS processing time is up to 10 business days for the new I-20. Do NOT submit your OPT application to USCIS without the new I-20 with OPT recommendation.

Upon approval of your OPT request, ISSS will send an electronically signed I-20 to your UMN email account. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security allows electronic delivery of form I-20.

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. Have enough money available in your U.S. bank account or U.S. credit card to pay the filing fee. If your employer will pay the fee, you will need their payment information. Click here for I-765 filing fee. You do not have to pay the biometric fee.
  2. One passport-style color photo (jpg, jpeg, or png, maximum size 6MB) taken within 30 days of filing your application. You can get a passport-style photo at the UMN Passport Office in the University International Center (331 17th Ave SE).
  3. Most recent electronic I-94.
  4. Biographical page of your passport.
  5. Copies of previous I-20s with CPT or OPT information.
  6. The new I-20 with OPT recommendation that ISSS will send you after you sign it.

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

3. Submit Your OPT Application to USCIS (Online or Through Mail)

It is your responsibility to submit your OPT application to USCIS. Do NOT submit your OPT application until you have your new I-20 with OPT recommendation.

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 if it is received more than 30 days after the OPT I-20 issue date. Contact ISSS for assistance if you will need a new I-20 with OPT recommendation prior to submitting your application to USCIS.

You can choose whether to submit your documents online (Option 1) or by mail (Option 2).

Option 1: Submit Your Application Online

To do this you must:

  1. Create your myUSCIS online account and log into your myUSCIS account. 
  2. Complete the online I-765 (follow the directions given in myUSCIS as well as ISSS instructions for the online I-765). You should complete all pages of Form I-765 online and keep a copy for your records. When asked, your eligibility category is c (3)(B) Student Post-Completion OPT. 
  3. Upload all of the documents that were listed in in Step 2, including your new I-20 with OPT recommendation. For your new I-20, you should sign it and upload pages 1 and 2.
  4. Pay the filing fee.  

After your payment is accepted, you will be redirected to a confirmation screen which will include your receipt number. You should keep a copy of your receipt number for your records. You can track the status of your OPT application through your myUSCIS online account. 

Once it is submitted, USCIS will communicate with you through your myUSCIS account. You will receive notifications at the mobile number and/or email address you entered in your online I-765.


Option 2: Mail Your OPT Application to the Appropriate USCIS Address

To do this you must:

  1. Complete a paper version of the I-765. To ensure you do it properly, you should review the ISSS instructions for the paper I-765.
  2. Mail the I-765 and the assembled materials to the USCIS Chicago Lockbox. You should send them as certified or express mail so you can track your package.
  • For U.S. Postal Service (USPS):
    Attn: I-765 C03
    PO Box 805373
    Chicago, IL 60680
  • For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
    Attn: I-765 C03
    131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
    Chicago, IL 60603-5517

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 within a few days after USCIS receives your application.

4. Wait for EAD to Be Mailed 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 advisor.

  • To find current processing times for I-765 applications, go to Under "Form" select I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and select Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student [(c)(3)] for "Form Category." 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.
  • If there is a question about your OPT application, USCIS will mail a Request for Evidence to you. If this happens to you, contact ISSS so we can help you.
  • If you change your address while your OPT application is still pendingclick 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

5. Fulfill Your OPT Reporting Requirements

It is essential that you fulfill your OPT Reporting requirements.

Key Dates

These are key dates for undergraduate and Plan C masters students graduating in Spring 2024.

Key datesHow it is countedSpring 2024 specific dates
Date of degree completionLast day of termMay 8, 2024
Earliest date to submit a request to ISSS100 days before the date of degree completionJanuary 30, 2024
Earliest date USCIS can receive OPT application90 days before the date of degree completionFebruary 9, 2024
Latest date USCIS can receive OPT application60 days after the date of degree completionJuly 7, 2024


Last updated: February 7, 2024