International Student Services

Optional Practical Training

OPT Guidelines

What is OPT?

  • Pre-completion OPT: While school is in session, students can apply for pre-completion OPT for employment that does not exceed 20 hours per week.
  • Post-completion OPT: You may work for up to 12 months after completing your degree program.


Eligibility Requirements for OPT

  • You must maintain your F-1 status for one full academic year and be in good academic standing before applying for OPT.

You must currently be in valid F-1 immigration status.


When to Apply for Post Completion OPT

  • F-1 students may apply for post-completion OPT up to 90 days before their program end date and up to 60 days after their program end date.
  • International Student Services highly recommends that students apply as soon as possible within 90 days of their program end date.
  • The OPT application must be properly filed within 30 days of the date International Student Services recommends OPT in SEVIS.


What to Bring to Your OPT Appointment

  • When you come to the office, please bring the following:

1)  A letter from your academic advisor indicating your current academic status and when you will graduate

2) Two identical passport sized photographs (places like Walgreens will take the picture for you) that must be taken within 30 days before your appointment.

3) Visa, passport, and I-94 card

4) Current I-20 plus ALL previously issued I-20s (if applicable)

5) Checkbook to pay the fee, which is currently $380 (a money order is an option as well). Checks must be: “Made payable to the “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”.” Do not abbreviate.

6) Any prior EAD cards (if you have any)

Most of you will NOT have a prior EAD card

7) Be thinking of the OPT start date you would like to request

For OPT after completion of studies, you may ask for the OPT to begin on the date after you will complete studies or any date within the 60 days following that date.

FORM I-765 Instructions

Below the box at the top of the page, “I am applying for:”

Check-mark the box: “Permission to accept employment.”


Fill out items 1 & 2 (your name must be the same as it appears in your passport)


Item 3: Address in the United States:

Use this address (see example of hard copy in office):

Care of International Student Services

4525 Downs Dr. Blum 210

St. Joseph, MO 64507


Fill out items 4-8.


Item 9: Social Security Number

Fill in only U.S. social security numbers (do not list Canadian social insurance numbers.)


Item 10: I-94 card

The 11-digits number at the top of your I-94 card.


Item 11: “Have you ever before applied for employment authorization from USCIS?”

Checkmark NO (unless you have previously used form I-765 to apply to USCIS for OPT or other work authorization.)


Item 12: Date of Last Entry into the U.S.

Write the date you most recently entered the U.S. (For most students, this will be the date stamped on your most recent I-94 card. However, students who changed to F-1 status while in the U.S. and did not subsequently depart and reenter the country in F-1 status should write the date stamped on their original I-94 card.)


Item 13: Place of Last Entry

Write the name of the U.S. city or border point where you most recently entered the U.S.


Item 14: Manner of Last Entry

Write the status you held at the time of your most recent entry to the U.S. For most, this will be “F1 Student.” (Students who changed to F-1 status while in the U.S. and who did not subsequently depart and reenter the country in F1 status should write the status they held on first entering the U.S., e.g., B2, F2).


Item 15: Current Immigration Status

Write “F1.”


Item 16:

For post-completion OPT, write (C) (3) (B).


Item 17:



Your Certification:

Sign and write your telephone number and date in BLUE INK.


Considerations When Applying for OPT

  • You do not need a job offer in order to apply for OPT
  • Time authorized for employment by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is considered time used, even if you did not work.
  • Students in F-1 status are eligible to apply for up to 12 months of post-completion OPT for each progressive degree level attained  (i.e., Bachelor’s to Master’s. Master’s to PhD, etc.)
  • Pre-completion OPT counts against the amount of time available for post-completion OPT.
  • You are not allowed to pursue a degree program while you are on post completion OPT.
  • You are allowed three months of unemployment from the start date on your employment card. If you are unemployed for three months, you must return home. The three months of time do not have to be consecutive.  For example,  if you are unemployed for one month, work for four months, and then are unemployed another two months, you have hit the three month limit and must end OPT.

During Optional Practical Training

  • It is important to keep International Student Services updated on any changes relevant to your immigration status (e.g. change of address, name, OPT termination, change of status, etc.)


Travel Before and During Practical Training

  • Do not travel outside of the United States while your OPT application is pending.
  • If you are requesting practical training after completion of your degree program, you may NOT re-enter the US without your EAD card. We advise students NOT to travel without your EAD card. If you have left the US and USCIS has a question or problem with your application, you will not be able to respond from outside the US.
  • You also need to have your I-20 endorsed for travel by the ISS Director, just as always. ISS will need a copy of your EAD card to process the travel signature.
  • When you travel, you are required to carry documentation that you have a job that is related to your field of study and commensurate with your level of study. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may deny reentry to students on OPT who do not have employment.

Receiving the USCIS Reply

  • The USCIS will correspond with International Student Services (the address you listed on the I-765 form).
  • If the USCIS has a question about your application, they will mail a request for evidence indicating their question. Generally, you will have several weeks to reply. International Student Services will email you or text you if there is a problem with your application.
  • The USCIS will send a receipt notice
  • If the USCIS approves your application they will mail an EAD card, which includes the authorization dates to International Student Services. The amount of time varies and can take as long as 60-120 days to receive the EAD card. ISS will make a copy of the front and back of your EAD card and notify you via email or text that your card has arrived.  If you are in town, please pick up the EAD card from Blum 210.  If not, ISS can mail you your card via UPS.
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4525 Downs Drive, St. Joseph, MO 64507
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