Post-completion OPT is a type of work authorization for F-1 students who are completing a bachelor’s or graduate degree in the U.S. and have studied in their degree program for at least one academic year (i.e., a spring and fall semester) in valid F-1 status. Its purpose is to provide an opportunity for employment experience in a student’s field of study. OPT is approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USC students who are interested in applying for OPT are required to read the OPT Instructions below.
OIS has provided answers to OPT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Spring 2021 Graduates
Effective immediately, processed OPT I-20s will be distributed to students electronically and will not be sent via express mail
On February 26, 2021, USCIS announced flexibility and extensions for OPT filing periods and work authorization related to certain USCIS Receipt Notice delays
On January 8, 2021, USCIS published changes to the mailing addresses for Form I-765 submissions – refer to the OPT Checklist
How to contact OIS
- OPT Instructions
- OPT I-20 Request System
- OPT Application Checklist
- Sample OPT I-765
- OPT Employment Reporting Requirements
- SEVP Portal Issues
- USCIS Announcement(s)
- OIS Contact Information
The OPT Instructions cover eligibility requirements, submission deadlines, employment and reporting requirements, and other frequently asked questions (FAQs).
When to submit:
Students may request an OPT I-20 from OIS as early as 90 days prior to their program end date and up to approximately 45 days after their program end date. Refer to the OPT Instructions for submission dates and deadlines.
* Incomplete or incorrect requests will be returned to students for review and correction, and will require resubmission to OIS for processing. The seven business day processing time will restart upon resubmission.
How completed I-20s will be sent to students:
Effective immediately, OPT I-20s will no longer be sent via express mail. Processed OPT I-20s for spring 2021 graduates will be signed and distributed electronically by OIS Designated School Officials (DSOs). Students will be notified by email to download and print their signed OPT I-20 from the OPT I-20 Request System. After printing, students must sign the printed I-20 in ink; USCIS does not allow students to sign the I-20 electronically.
SEVP, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Department of State (DoS) have confirmed they accept I-20s electronically signed by DSOs. Please note only DSOs may electronically sign I-20s; students may not electronically sign any documents submitted to USCIS.
Reprints and travel signatures:
Students currently on OPT cannot use the OPT I-20 Request System for I-20 Reprint or travel signature requests. This system is used only for initial OPT/STEM OPT Extension/Cap-Gap Extension I-20 requests.
Effective January 8, 2021, the USCIS mailing addresses for Form I-765 Post-Completion OPT submissions has changed. Refer to the 01/08/2021 edition of the OPT Checklist for the correct mailing addresses.
After receiving the OPT I-20 from OIS, the student must assemble OPT application packet and mail it to USCIS for processing. Please note USCIS requires students to sign all documents in ink; electronic student signatures are note permitted. Refer to the OPT Application Checklist for a list of required documents and mailing instructions.
For guidance on completing the Form I-765 indicated on the checklist, please refer to the Sample OPT I-765.
Questions? Refer to OIS’s answers to OPT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Spring 2021 Graduates.
On September 29, 2020, a U.S. federal court issued an injunction against the USCIS fee increase that was expected to go into effect on October 2, 2020. Due to this ruling, USCIS will continue to accept OPT applications filed with the 8/25/20 edition of the Form I-765 and $410 fee until further notice.
Please refer to USC’s Sample OPT I-765 when completing the OPT application. Be sure to download the most recent versions of the I-765 and instructions from USCIS. Failure to use the most recent version could result in OPT denial.
Questions? Refer to OIS’s answers to OPT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Spring 2021 Graduates.
Immigration regulations require F-1 students on post-completion OPT to report their employment, employment relation to major, US address, and telephone information on or after their approved OPT start date. All updates must be reported within 10 days.
As part of OPT reporting requirements, students must activate and maintain an SEVP Portal account. On or after the student’s OPT EAD start date, SEVP will email the student an account activation link (see SEVP Portal activation video). By default, this link will be sent to the student’s USC email address. Students must create their SEVP Portal account within 14 days of receiving this link, regardless of employment status. For additional guidance, see Study in the States: SEVP Portal Help, SEVP Portal Videos, and SEVP Portal Issues.
Failure to comply with reporting requirements will result in termination of the student’s SEVIS record by SEVP and/or USCIS.
How to report OPT employment:
Step 1: Complete and submit the OIS OPT Employment Relation to Major Form
- Students submitted the PDF version of the OIS OPT Employment Relation to Major Form before February 4, 2021, for their current employer do not need to resubmit the Microsoft Forms version – only submit using the updated form if adding or changing employers
Step 2: Login to the SEVP Portal and update employment information
- Click to access the SEVP Portal
- If your OPT is approved, you will receive the SEVP Portal account activation email from SEVIS on or after your OPT EAD start date – SEVIS does not allow portal access prior to the EAD start date
- Add or update employment, U.S. address, and telephone information
Within 10 days of a change, student must report updates to:
- U.S. address or personal contact information via the SEVP Portal
- Employment information via Employment Relation to Major Form and SEVP Portal
Before contacting OIS, please review the Study in the States: SEVP Portal Help website for answers to common questions or issues, including how to unlock your SEVP Portal account or reset your password.
If you need the initial SEVP Portal account creation email to be resent, need to change your SEVP Portal email address, or have any other SEVP Portal issue not addressed on the Study in the States website, submit an SEVP Portal Account Issue report to OIS. Please allow up to four (4) business days for processing. You will receive an email from OIS@usc.edu when your request is complete or if additional information is needed.
- SEVP Policy Guidance announcement
- SEVP Policy Guidance: Practical Training – Determining a Direct Relationship Between Employment and a Student’s Major Area of Study
Excerpt of USCIS announcement published on February 26, 2021. Full announcement available on the USCIS website.
14-month OPT Period Flexibilities
F-1 students may participate in up to 12 months of post-completion OPT, which must be completed within 14 months from the end of their program. Due to the delays at the lockbox, some applicants may only be eligible for a shortened period of OPT within that 14-month period. To allow F-1 students to complete the full period of requested OPT (up to 12 months), USCIS will allow the 14-month period to commence from the date of approval of the Form I-765 for applications for post-completion OPT.
Beginning today, USCIS will approve applications for post-completion OPT with validity dates reflecting the same amount of time originally recommended by the designated school official (DSO) from their school on the Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.
F-1 students requesting post-completion OPT who receive an approval of Form I-765 for less than the full amount of OPT time requested (not to exceed 12 months) due to the requirement that the OPT be completed within 14 months of the program end date may request a correction of the EAD due to USCIS error. USCIS will issue a corrected EAD with a new end date, as requested, to cover the full amount of OPT time recommended in the original application.
Refiling Following Rejection
Applicants for OPT must file the Form I-765 during certain timeframes. However, we recognize that due to the lockbox delays, some applicants who timely filed Form I-765 for OPT and whose applications were later rejected are unable to timely refile within the required application timeframes.
USCIS will accept a refiled Form I-765 for OPT and STEM OPT as filed on the original filing date if:
- The original, timely filed application was received on or after Oct. 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021, inclusive; and
- USCIS subsequently rejected it.
Refiled applications must be received by May 31, 2021, for USCIS to treat the application as though filed on the original received date.
Applicants refiling a Form I-765 for OPT or STEM OPT do not need to obtain a new Form I-20 with an updated OPT recommendation from the DSO, as long as they originally submitted an application for post-completion OPT within 30 days of the DSO’s recommendation or an application for STEM OPT within 60 days of the DSO’s recommendation as required by the regulations.
Applicants refiling an application should include a copy of the rejection notice to facilitate review of the case.
Missing or Deficient Signatures
Applications with missing or deficient signatures are generally rejected at the lockbox. This policy remains unchanged. However, if the lockbox accepts a Form I-765 application for OPT or STEM OPT with a missing or deficient signature, USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence rather than deny the application, to give the applicant the opportunity to respond and provide the necessary signature or correct the deficiency. We encourage applicants filing Form I-765 to review the form instructions on our website to ensure their application is complete before filing it.
USCIS has confirmed they are experiencing significant delays in issuing Receipt Notices. At this time, receipt notices are being issued approximately 4-6 weeks after the applications are delivered (i.e., received at the lockbox).
Per USCIS, the receipt issuance delays will not affect the receipt date. Therefore, we need to rely on your tracking information to assume your application is received and pending. If your shipment tracking information shows that your application was delivered to the USCIS lockbox within 30 days of your OPT I-20 issuance date, no further action is required at this time. OIS will not issue a new I-20 at this time because we do not want to duplicate or cancel any applications that have been received (i.e., delivered) to USCIS as this can cause a number of additional issues with you OPT application, including denial.
Your Receipt Notice will reflect two dates – the date it was delivered (i.e., received at the lockbox) and the date USCIS issued (i.e., printed) the Receipt Notice. When you receive your Receipt Notice, please make note of the received date to confirm your application was received no more than 30 days after your OPT I-20 issuance date.
Do you have any questions after reviewing the above information? OIS can provide assistance via email or an advising session.