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Optional practical training

Optional practical training is employment authorization for off-campus work that is directly related to your major field of study. To be eligible for OPT, you must be in lawful F-1 status for one full academic year prior to applying, have a passport valid for at least six months into the future and have accumulated less than one year of full-time CPT.

OPT application process

Step 1: Preparation and initial paperwork

Review the frequently asked questions about OPT and attend a mandatory OPT workshop (sign up for a workshop in advance through MU Connect). Then complete the necessary forms:

  • OPT workshop review (given to you at the OPT workshop)
  • Form I-765 — choose from the following eligibility codes for question 16:
    • (c)(3)(A) for pre-completion OPT
    • (c)(3)(B) for post-completion OPT
    • (c)(3)(C) for STEM extension (see additional information about OPT STEM extensions)
  • OPT Adviser Verification form (to be completed by your academic adviser)

Step 2: Submit application to the International Center

After completing the necessary paperwork, submit an online OPT Request and bring the following documents (do not staple) to the International Center:

  • OPT workshop review (given to you at the OPT workshop; review the workshop slides)
  • Form I-765
  • OPT Adviser Verification form
  • Copies of immigration documents: I-94, visa, passport
  • Copies of all previous I-20s
  • Copy of job offer letter (if applicable)
  • Documentation of previous employment:
    • Copy of any previous EAD cards you have received from USCIS
    • Copies of all I-20s endorsed for curricular practical training or OPT

Do not submit your check or photos to the International Center.

After you submit your application and drop off your documents at the International Center, an international student adviser will process your application within five business days. When your documents have been signed, the adviser will email you and leave your documents at the front desk for you to pick up.

Step 3: Mail application to USCIS

Once you have received your documents back from the International Center, you should gather all necessary items and submit your entire application to USCIS. Your application should include:
  • Check for $410 made out to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"
  • Two passport-size photos taken within the last 30 days (can be obtained at the International Center)
  • Form I-765
  • Copy of all sides of your new I-20, signed by an international student adviser within the last 30 days (do not send your original I-20)
  • Copies of all previous I-20s
  • Copy of I-94
  • Copy of your passport photo page, passport expiration date page and visa (if your passport is extended on another page, include that page as well)
  • Copy of any previous EAD cards you have received from USCIS (e.g., OPT authorized for a different degree)
  • Optional: G-1145, if you would like to receive an email or text message confirming your application has been received by USCIS before your official receipt notice is mailed to you

Send your completed application to the USCIS Phoenix lockbox:

By U.S. Postal Service By express service (e.g., UPS, FedEx)
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S, Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Step 4: Receive your EAD card

Approximately two weeks after you mail your OPT application, you will receive a receipt from USCIS confirming that they have received your documents. The receipt will have a receipt number (the YSC number) that you may use to check the status of your application through the USCIS Case Status Online system.

USCIS will make a decision on your application within 120 days. If approved, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document in the mail. You may begin working when you have the EAD card and the employment start date on it has arrived.

Responsibility to MU

During OPT, you will continue to be an MU F-1 student; you are simply an F-1 student on OPT. Therefore, you must keep the International Center informed of any changes of address or employer. You may update your employer or address information through the online Document Request System.

Your I-20 will be valid past its program end date if the OPT authorization dates on your I-20 have not passed. If you plan to travel while on OPT, you must have a valid travel signature on your I-20, signed within the last six months.

H-1B cap-gap relief

F-1 status and work authorization are automatically extended if you are on OPT and have a pending H-1B petition with an Oct. 1 start date. This extension is valid until the H-1B petition is rejected or if the petition is approved Oct. 1. This automatic extension is available to all OPT participants, not just those with STEM degrees. To see this extension reflected on your I-20, contact the International Center to reprint your document.