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Optional Practical Training

What are OPT and CPT? (PowerPoint)

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:

To start the OPT application process you can log into Pathways and make a virtual appointment with Bri Rhodes or Jenny Medina. If you are applying for post-completion OPT (to work after graduation), you can apply for OPT up to 45 days after your program end date, but no more than 90 days in advance. We can go over the process and what documents we will need from you to process the I-20 form recommending you for the OPT. You will need to upload the following documents to USCIS after we have issued you the new I-20 form. We will also include these instructions in our meeting with you.

  • $410.00 filing fee - you will pay this by echeck or credit card/debit card when you submit the application

  • Form I-765 - This can be submitted online and will allow you to upload all documents

  • Scan of new Form I-20 with an employment recommendation

  • Scans of any/all previously issued I-20 forms with work authorization on page 2

  • Pdf of Form I-94, which can be retrieved online

  • Scans of ID and visa pages from passport including entry stamp of the last time you entered the US

  • US Passport-style photo taken within the last 30 days. You can either use a US passport photo app or purchase a flash drive at Walgreens or CVS and ask for the electronic file to be placed on the flash drive. USCIS will return your application if the photos do not meet their requirements

If you have already done OPT, include copies/scans 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.

Once you've uploaded everything you can submit the form or send your completed paper application to the address listed in the I765 instructions.

You will receive a receipt notice from USCIS via email once you submit your application. This verifies your application will be processed. Double-check the information on the receipt notice for accuracy.

Actual processing times vary and may range from 90-120 days. 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 will 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.


Processing times vary greatly, but can take three or four months, so plan ahead.