Students applying for OPT must complete a USCIS Form I-765 and follow the “Special Instructions”. On Section 16 of the application, students must enter the appropriate OPT code:
- Pre-Completion – C3A
- Post-Completion – C3B
- STEM Extension – C3C
When Can I File for OPT?
For post-completion OPT, you can apply as early as 90 days prior to the completion date of your program, as discussed above. The latest you can file is 60 days after your program end date. For example, if your graduation date is May 20th, you may apply for OPT beginning February 21st, and July 13th is the cut-off date to ensure that USCIS will receive your application before July 19th, the 60th day after graduation.
You do not need a job offer in order to apply for OPT. It is highly recommended to apply early.
The OPT application approval can take 2 to 3 months, so be sure to plan ahead. OPT applications cannot be expedited. Current average processing times for applications are listed on the www.uscis.gov website. Typically, the earlier you file your OPT application, the shorter the processing time on the application due to the number of applications they receive, so plan accordingly!
Selecting a Start Date for OPT
Post-completion OPT always counts as full-time and it must be completed within 14 months of completing your program. For example, if you complete your program on May 20th, your start date for OPT must be between May 21st and July 19th, the 60th day after completing your program.
Please note that although you can apply for OPT after graduation, it is to your advantage to file early, as you may forfeit some of your twelve months of OPT while waiting for your card. You may not change your OPT dates once you have mailed your application. You may not begin working until you receive your EAD card and reach the beginning date on your EAD card.