When to Apply
Applying for OPT is a long process. USCIS processing time may be up to 5 months. And, it may take ISS up to 15 days to process a student’s OPT recommendation request. This OPT Date Calculator can help students plan ahead!
How to Apply
Step 1: Complete the Mandatory ISS OPT Workshop
Online in Terra Dotta
The OPT workshop is part of the OPT request form in Terra Dotta. You must complete all required video modules. All of the required modules will take you up to a total of 50 minutes to complete. You must complete the OPT Workshop Quiz after viewing the video modules.
Step 2: Complete All Sections of the OPT Form and Acknowledge Your Statement of Responsibility
Upload all necessary documents and fill out the “Document Mailing Information” and “OPT Request Form” questionnaires.
At the end of the form, you will do the following:
- Certify that you have completed the mandatory ISS OPT Workshop
- Review your mandatory reporting requirements while on OPT
- Acknowledge your understanding to fulfill those reporting requirements and the acceptable time frame to submit your OPT application materials to USCIS
Step 3: Submit the ISS OPT Application Form
Click on the “Submit” button at the top of the OPT form after you have completed all sections and accepted the Statement of Responsibility.
The earliest date to submit this form to ISS is 115 days before your date of completion, if you are applying for post-completion OPT.
Step 4: Mail All Required Documents to USCIS
*ISS recommends that you file your USCIS I-765 OPT application online. Since this is a newly created option, our office is still in the process of writing guidance specifically for UW-Madison students. Basic tips for the online application can be found on the USCIS website here.*
Compile all of the documents required by USCIS. A checklist of required documents is available after you accept the Statement of Responsibility. USCIS processing times are posted online.
If you will mail your USCIS I-765 OPT application: Make a copy of your completed OPT application packet before you mail it to USCIS. Keep this in a safe place for your permanent records.
The USCIS address you send your application materials to depends on the address you use on the USCIS Form I-765, Part 2, Question 5, and the method you use to mail the application. Direct mailing addresses for USCIS Form I-765 for foreign students applying for OPT are located on their website.
You, as the applicant, are responsible for your OPT application. You should review the full instructions available on the USCIS I-765 page.
In March 2021 USCIS launched an online I-765 that F-1 students applying for OPT or OPT STEM Extension are eligible to submit. You may need a copy of UW-Madison’s institutional accreditation. You can download the letter of reaccreditation and attach it to your online I-765.
ISS has developed guidance for USCIS Form I-765 for Pre- and Post- Completion OPT in response to common questions from students. (Note: This is guidance intended to help you and should not be viewed as legal advice.)
Please review each item in the I-765 carefully. Each item discussed is highlighted in the image as to where it appears on the actual I-765 Form.
Download the USCIS Form I-765 from www.uscis.gov using Chrome or Firefox and complete it in Adobe Acrobat. Print out all 7 pages single sided, and sign in black ink only.
Tracking Your Application
USCIS will mail you a receipt notice (I-797C) with your OPT application case status number. You can track your case status at www.uscis.gov.
Request a tracking number when you mail your OPT application to USCIS. Track the package delivery and save the delivery confirmation with a copy of your OPT application packet.
Expediting Your Application
It is very difficult to expedite your OPT application with USCIS. The USCIS expedite criteria are difficult for an F-1 student to meet since your primary purpose in the U.S. is to study, and you must have sufficient funding to cover your educational and living expenses while in the U.S. in F-1 status.
Please do not contact State representatives to expedite your OPT application with USCIS. Wisconsin’s senators and representatives have contacted ISS directly to inform our F-1 students that they are unable to assist with OPT applications.
OPT and the 60 Day Grace Period
You can apply for post-completion OPT during your 60 day grace period. Your 60 day grace period starts the day after you complete all requirements for your degree program.
If your OPT application is still pending with USCIS during and/or after your 60 day period, you can legally remain in the U.S. in F-1 status until USCIS makes a decision on your case. You should keep a copy of your USCIS I-797C receipt notice as proof. If you are approved for OPT, your EAD card is additional proof of your current F-1 status. If you are denied for OPT, you must depart the U.S. immediately or risk accruing days of unlawful presence in the U.S. Always consult ISS if your OPT application is denied.
As long as you follow your OPT reporting requirements and you do not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during your authorized period of OPT, you earn a 60 day grace period at the end of your OPT.