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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. You may use OPT for unpaid or paid work experience. There are three types of OPT:

  • Pre-completion: Start and finish before your program end date.
  • Post-completion: Start and finish after program end date.
  • 24-month STEM extension: Certain circumstances allow you to apply to extend OPT for an additional 24 months.


  • Be in lawful F-1 status for one full academic year prior to applying for OPT.
  • Have a passport that is valid for at least six months into the future.
  • Have no more than 364 days (less than one year) of full-time CPT.

Application process

Step 1: Attend workshop and prepare documents

Attend a mandatory OPT workshop (sign up for a workshop in advance through MU Connect). Then gather the necessary documents, which can be uploaded electronically through myStatus or submitted in hard copy to the International Center:

  • Completed Form I-765 — most students should use eligibility category (c)(3)(B) for post-completion OPT
  • Copy of I-94
  • Copy of passport biographical page
  • Copy of visa
  • Copies of all previous I-20s
  • Copy of any previous Employment Authorization Documents you have received from USCIS (if applicable)
OPT application timeline
Term First day to accept application Graduation date (I-20 end date) Last day of grace period
Summer 2019 April 27, 2019 July 26, 2019 Sept. 24, 2019
Fall 2019 Sept. 14, 2019 Dec. 13, 2019 Feb. 11, 2020
Spring 2020 Feb. 15, 2020 May 15, 2020 July 14, 2020

Step 2: Submit application to the International Center

After gathering the necessary documents, submit an online OPT request and upload your documents or bring them to the International Center (do not staple). You will also provide the following as part of your OPT request:

  • OPT workshop review (review the workshop slides)
  • OPT adviser verification
  • OPT processing fee — payable by cash (exact change only), check or money order (payable to "MU International Center")
    • $75 for initial OPT applications
    • $150 for STEM OPT extension applications

Do not submit your U.S. Department of Homeland Security check or photos to the International Center.

After you submit your application, all required documents and pay the OPT processing fee to the International Center, an international student adviser will process your application within five business days. When your documents have been signed, you will receive an email that they are ready for you to pick up at the International Center front desk.

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 in the pre-paid envelope provided by the International Center.

Step 4: Monitor your EAD progress

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.

Step 5: Receive your EAD card

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.