Optional Practical Training

OPT is open to F-1 students who are "in status" with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and who have been in F-1 status for one full academic year (students who enroll in September, for example, become eligible to engage in OPT the following summer). Students who have been outside the US for reasons other than study abroad (for example, a non-academic leave spent at home) must complete one full academic year in F-1 status upon their return before they will be eligible for OPT.

OPT is defined as "temporary employment in your field of study," so it may be used only for work that is directly related to your declared major at Mount Holyoke, and it must be at a level that is appropriate for your background (for example, clerical or secretarial work generally is not permissible, even if the job is in a company or organization whose work is relevant to your major). 

Please read this important information sheet that explains more about OPT. 

Application Procedures for OPT:

The application procedure is fairly straightforward, and you should generally begin by making an appointment to meet with Jenny Medina in the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives (call x2072). Bring the following documents with you:

  • Your passport
  • Your I-20 form (and any previous I-20s, if applicable)
  • Any previous EAD cards issued for OPT
  • OPT Advisor Form completed and signed

We will provide the USCIS form required (I-765) and help you complete it. You will then submit the materials listed below to USCIS. You should assemble the documents with the check or money order and photos on top, then the I-765 form, followed by the rest of the documents. Do not staple the photos to any of the other documents, and do not staple the documents to one another. Use a paper clip to hold things together.

  • Check or money order for $410.00, payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" (DO NOT ABBREVIATE) 
  • Original of Form I-765 (we will give this to you at your OPT appointment)
  • Copy of Form I-20, printed from SEVIS for employment purposes (we will do this for you when you come in to apply for OPT)
  • G-1145 Form 
  • Photocopies of any/all previously issued I-20 forms
  • Copy of Form I-94, which can be retrieved online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/request.html
  • Photocopies of ID and visa pages from passport including entry stamp of the last time you entered the US
  • Two photos taken within the last 30 days. We will give you instructions on the requirements for the photos when you come in to apply for OPT. Do not staple the photos or the application pages. USCIS will return your application if the photos do not meet their requirements.

If you have already done OPT, include copies of your previous EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card(s). If you are applying for a replacement or extension EAD card, include the folded insert in which you received the original card; it has a bar code that will facilitate the issuance of a new card.

Send your completed application by certified return-receipt mail, or Priority Mail to:

US Department of Homeland Security
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

Or, if sending by an express mail courier such as USPS express, Fedex, DHL or UPS to:

US Department of Homeland Security
USCIS
Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy 121 Business
Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

You will receive a receipt from USCIS indicating that your application will be processed within 90 days. Actual processing times vary, and may range from six weeks to ten weeks. The receipt notice will include a receipt number for your application; once you have the receipt, you may check the status of your application online by visiting the USCIS website, or by calling the national USCIS call center at 1-800-375-5283. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism by which you or we can expedite your application (regardless of how long ago you filed, or whether your expected start date is coming up). For information about general USCIS procedures, see the Vermont Service Center web page.

Once USCIS has approved your application the EAD card to be issued. The EAD will be sent directly to you at the address you list on the I-765 form  - usually our office.  The EAD card lists the dates for which you are approved to work, in the capacity for which you have applied (remember, the work you apply for and engage in must be related to your major. You may not begin work until you receive this card and the start date listed has come. Please make sure to check the dates on the EAD card when you receive it to make sure there are no mistakes.

Timing

Processing times vary greatly, but can take three or four months, so plan ahead. If you are applying for post-completion OPT (to work after graduation), you can apply for the OPT up to 45 days after your program end date, but no more than 90 days in advance.