International Programs and Services

About Optional Practical Training

When to Apply

F-1 students are able to apply for post-completion OPT 90 days prior to their program end date but no later than 60 days after the program end date.

Your estimated program end date on your current I-20 will be shortened if you met academic requirements and wish to apply for OPT.

Please keep in mind if you apply late (within 60 days after your I-20 end date), you may not receive the full 12 months of OPT because OPT must be completed within 14 months following the completion of study (see OPT timeline).

  • You do not need a job offer to apply for 12-month OPT.
  • Approval can take up to 90 days or longer.

How to Apply

Step 1

  • You must complete the OPT 101 prep course on Canvas. Please fill out the Google form here to request to be added to the course. Once you complete the OPT online course you must print out the score report from the "Grades" tab.
  • Submit the grades printout along with your completed academic advisor recommendation form in person at the office or by email to Once both items are received an OPT review appointment will be scheduled. Please note IPS will not process the necessary OPT pending I-20 until both forms are received. Do NOT submit forms until you are within 90 days of your academic end date.
  • Be sure to include your selected OPT start date on the academic advisor recommendation form. This date cannot be more than 60 days after your program end date. Make sure you bring the necessary documents listed below to the review appointment. If you do not bring them, your review will be rescheduled. If you are not in Houghton, we are happy to do a review over email if you send all the documents to
  • If you have a job offer, fill out the employer verification form before the OPT review. Employer Information Update (Web Form)

Documents required:

  • Completed and signed I-765 Form (type or print legibly in black ink). Please note you must list the IPS address in section 3: MTU/IPS 1400 Townsend Dr., Houghton, Michigan 49931). See application guide for help completing the form. Do not E-file your application!
  • Two passport photos taken within 30 days. You can have your photo taken at IPS for $10. Before you come to the studio, pay for your photo here. Bring your receipt when you come to the office. Write your name and I-94 number on the back of each photo in pencil.
  • Check or money order in the amount of $410, payable to "US Department of Homeland Security." Be sure to sign your money order, as failing to do so will cause your OPT packet to be returned. Alternatively, you may pay by Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover Card by completing Form G-1450.
  • Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application is used to request a text message and/or email from USCIS once your application has been received at the processing center.
  • Copy of new OPT I-20 and copies of all previous I-20s.
  • Copy of your valid passport: photo page, renewal page if original has expired, and pages showing amendments such as name changes or corrections.
  • Copy of your visa: photo page and copies of all US visa stamps.
  • Copy of your latest I-94.
  • Other documents to include if applicable: offer letter from your future employer, photocopy of any correspondence with USCIS such as envelopes, receipts, notifications, etc. as may be appropriate for the situation.
  • Copy of any previous EAD cards.
  • Do NOT submit required OPT forms unless you are within 90 days of your academic program end date.

Your OPT start date is printed on your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card). The start date is your requested start date or the date USCIS approves the application, whichever occurs later. Here is a sample EAD card:

sample EAD card

Step 2

  • Mail the application packet to USCIS. USCIS must receive your packet within 30 days of the new OPT I-20 generated date.

What happens after you submit your OPT request:

  • USCIS will send a Receipt Notice, called an I-797C, within two to four weeks to the IPS address. IPS will scan and email you a copy of the receipt. You must collect the original I-797 from our office or request it to be mailed to your US address if you are no longer in Houghton. You must keep this receipt; it is needed for OPT STEM Extension and H-1B processing.
  • You can track the progress of your application on the USCIS website. Keep in mind the status will remain the same until it is approved because USCIS does not update on a regular basis.

Once your card arrives at IPS we will email you a scanned copy of the EAD card. You must collect the EAD card in person or pay for UEMS Express shipping to have it sent to you. You cannot begin work until you have the EAD card and your start date has arrived. Make sure you keep the paper the EAD card is attached to; you will need it when you apply for STEM Extension. Please note start dates cannot be changed.

You Need to Know

  • Fees can change without prior notice. Check USCIS for the latest updates.
  • You can take recreational courses while on OPT. However, if you begin a new degree program, your OPT is automatically terminated.
  • OPT is authorized as full time however, you are eligible to work part time.
  • USCIS may send Form I-797 (approval notice) prior to sending the actual EAD card.