Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Instructions for F-1 Students
USCIS is an acronym for United States Citizenship & Immigration Service.
1. Fill out Form I-765, which is available on the USCIS web site at http://uscis.gov. This is a FILLABLE PDF, so please complete it online and print it. DO NOT USE THE ELECTRONIC SUBMISSION. When completing the address section of this form, please be certain to use an address that will not change. The US Postal Service cannot forward mail from the USCIS, and there is a great potential for documents to be lost or destroyed.
2. Complete the "Practical Training Recommendation" with your major professor/advisor (SDSM&T form at bottom of page). This form is for the Ivanhoe International Center ONLY and is not sent to the USCIS.
3. Set up an appointment with the Ivanhoe International Center after completing the forms. Bring the I-765 and recommendation forms with you. The I-765 form is a fillable pdf, and should be completed prior to your appointment. The Ivanhoe Center must enter all information into SEVIS (Student & Exchange Visitor Information System) so please allow time to prepare and print those forms.
4. You need to send the documentation listed below to the USCIS office indicated on the web site. The most current information is on the USCIS web site. Please be advised that it will take 2-3 months (possibly longer) for you to receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) once you have filed the paperwork.
5. You must submit the complete application package to the USCIS WITHIN 30 DAYS of obtaining the OPT signature endorsement on the I-20.
6. An application for an EAD should include the following:
b. Fee of $380 (Effective 11/23/10) or amount indicated on web site; make check or money order payable to Department of Homeland Security
c. Two photos to specifications indicated on the USCIS web site
d. Copy of SDSM&T SEVIS I-20 forms and copy of any pre-SEVIS I-20 forms. They do NOT want the original forms.
e. Copies of ALL I-20 forms or other status documents since you entered the US. This verifies to the USCIS that you entered the US in legal status and are continuing to maintain that status;
f. Copy of I-94 (send a photocopy of both sides, even if there is nothing on the back; they do NOT want the original);
g. Copies of the passport pages with the photo and identifying information about you, and copies of visa stamp, if it includes a photo, and photocopies of previous EAD. (again, NO originals!)
7. You cannot leave the country if you have practical training approved but do not have employment or an offer of employment. It is also risky to leave while you have a practical training application pending with the USCIS. You must also obtain an endorsement on the I-20 for re-entry to the USA. The EAD has a statement across the front: "NOT VALID FOR RE-ENTRY", which simply means you must have the endorsement on the I-20. You must also have employment or an offer of employment in order to return. If you are outside the US for longer than five months, you are not eligible to return, regardless of your situation.
8. Do not go to work until you have the EAD!!!!! If you go to work before you have the EAD, you will be working illegally.
USCIS web site FAQ on Practical Training, the STEM Extension, and the Cap Gap
Below is a link to the most current information on where to file the I-765 for your Optional Practical Training
Link to filing addresses for the I-765 by category
E-mail or text notification
It is possible to receive e-notification of application/petition acceptance, using Form G-1145.
When filing Form I-765 at one of the USCIS Lockbox facilities, you may elect to receive an email and/or text message notifying you that your application has been accepted. You must complete an E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (Form G-1145), and attach it to the first page of your application.
For more information on USCIS programs, visit www.uscis.gov or call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
I-765 form online through USCIS. This is a fillable pdf form.
E-notification of Application/Petition acceptance
E-notification form G-1145
Other USCIS Forms & Fees
USCIS Forms and Fees
Instructor Recommendation Form
Instructor Recommendation Form (fillable pdf)