OPT: Post-Graduation Work Authorization

Students who plan on working in a paid position after completing their program must receive work authorization. OPT (Optional Practical Training) is a type of work permission available for F-1 international students who finish their program requirements. OPT is approved by U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), with support from the university ISSS office. Students who are approved for OPT can work 1 year in unpaid/paid positions after completing their major program of study.


Read This First

OPT follows federal and school regulations:

  • OPT must be related to the student’s major program of study.
  • Students must receive an OPT I-20 from the ISSS office before submitting their application to USCIS.
  • OPT is granted only once per education level.
  • Once approved by USCIS:
    • Students are approved for 1 year of work authorization.
    • Students cannot begin working before the start date on their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.
    • Students must work a combined total of at least 20 hours/week.
      • Positions can be unpaid/paid and with multiple employers.

Students should plan ahead and begin the application process with the ISSS office as early as possible.



To be eligible for OPT, students must meet following criteria:

  1. Currently enrolled at UMBC full time with active F-1 status
  2. Completed two consecutive academic semesters (fall and spring) in the US
  3. Completed all program requirements for degree
    • Exceptions for graduate students who only have a thesis/dissertation remaining
  4. Have not been previously granted OPT at the current level of study
  5. Have not been approved for 12 months or more of full time Curricular Practical Training (CPT)


Application Process

Students must first receive a special OPT I-20 from the ISSS office before submitting their OPT application to USCIS. Applications submitted to USCIS without an OPT-specific I-20 will be denied. USCIS processing times can take up to three months or more, so students should plan ahead and apply early. Contact our office about any concerns or questions.


Application Submission Period

OPT applications must be submitted to USCIS no earlier than 90 days before your program end date and no later than 60 days after your program end date. OPT applications submitted to USCIS outside of this date range will be denied. Work with the ISSS office to prepare your application early.

OPT submission dates



Step 1: Request your OPT I-20

Students must first request a special OPT I-20 from the ISSS office. Applications submitted to USCIS without an OPT I-20 will be denied.

Students must submit a complete OPT request in the ISSS Portal. First, students choose an OPT start date. The OPT start date can be any date within the 60 days after the I-20 program end date. Please refer to the table and/or graphic above to choose an OPT start date.

Second, students will need to upload a draft I-765. Students should download a draft I-765 by clicking “View Draft Snapshot” in their online USCIS account. Students who upload a draft I-765 with the incorrect format will need to re-upload it in the correct format.

ISSS will review each student’s OPT request and send an email if anything is missing. Once approved, students will receive an I-20 with the OPT recommendation listed on the second page. The I-20 should list “OPT Requested” on the second page, with requested start and end dates. Please contact us if anything needs to be corrected.

To do’s:

  1. Watch a previous OPT Workshop presentation (requires myUMBC login) and review the slides
  2. Download a draft I-765 application
  3. Submit a complete OPT request in the ISSS Portal

Remember: you do not need a job offer before applying!

Step 2: Submit I-765 OPT Application to USCIS

The ISSS office will review each OPT request and email the student about any potential edits students should change on their draft I-765. Students will also be able to view their OPT I-20 in their request. Students must print out and sign their OPT I-20 with ink. Submitting an application without a signature will likely result in a denial. Finally, students must upload all required documentation and submit their I-765 application using the USCIS online application system. The current fee for submitting an I-765 is $410. The fee is increasing to $470 and will go into effect on April 1, 2024.


BEFORE YOU SUBMIT: Double check to see if “OPT Requested” with the requested start and end dates is on the second page of your I-20! If you submit your OPT application to USCIS without this OPT I-20, it will be automatically denied!


Step 3: Track Case Status

After submitting an application to USCIS, students will receive an I-797 Receipt Notice with a case number. Students can track the status of their application by entering their case number on the USCIS Case Status website. USCIS processing times vary, and it can take up to three months to receive a response on an application. Check current USCIS processing times for an I-765 application.


If you recently moved or your mailing address has changed, update your address in your online USCIS account. It is important to list a current mailing address. Your EAD card will arrive at the mailing address listed in your USCIS online account. See further instructions here.

USCIS recently expanded its myProgress program to include Forms I-765. myProgress aims to provide personalized processing time information, but it is a very, very new tool.

We have received several inquiries from students who have accessed the myProgress tool through their USCIS online account and seen confusing information, including much longer estimated processing times than normal and a section for Biometrics.


Please note that Biometrics are almost never required for OPT applicants, and you will receive a special communication from USCIS if Biometrics are required in your case. Again, it is extremely unlikely you will need to provide them.


Please consult the average processing times for OPT applications here for an accurate estimate. To get the most up-to-date processing times for OPT applicants, select the following options on that page:


Form: I-765 | Application for Employment Authorization
Form Category: Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student [(c)(3)]
Field Office or Service Center: Potomac Service Center


Step 4: Review Response from USCIS

Students will receive a response from USCIS on their I-765 OPT application. Students will either receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) notice, approval notice, or denial notice. These different outcomes are outlined below:


Students who receive an RFE should contact the ISSS office as soon as possible. ISSS will assist the student in preparing additional documentation. Most students will not receive this, but please contact our office if you do.


Students who are denied should review the explanation written on their notice. Students can request another OPT I-20 and submit a new I-765 application if there is enough time before their 60 day grace period ends. Contact the ISSS office about any questions or concerns.


The approval notice will list the approved OPT start and end dates. However, students cannot begin working until their physical EAD card arrives in the mail. Students can track the delivery of their EAD card by following these instructions.


Step 5: Maintain F-1 Status After OPT Approval

On the approved start date, students will receive an email from do-not-reply.SEVP@ice.dhs.gov to create an SEVP Portal Account. Students must create an account and update their employer information while on OPT to maintain F-1 status. Any changes to employer information or a student’s address must be entered within 10 days. Students who cannot enter information into their SEVP Portal Account should contact the ISSS office.


It is your responsibility to maintain F-1 status on OPT!

Follow these regulations:

  • Update your address and any employer information in the SEVP Portal within 10 days of the change
    • Do not delete any employers – this is for record keeping
  • Work unpaid/paid position(s) for a combined total of at least 20 hours/week
    • Must be related to your major program of study
    • Can be multiple employers
  • Keep track of your unemployment days
    • Students have a total of 90 unemployment days while on OPT

For more help with the SEVP Portal, visit this page.


No, you do not need a job offer before applying for OPT.

Your OPT start date can be any date after your I-20 program end date and the 60 day grace period. Please see the table and/or graphic above to choose an OPT start date.

Make sure you account for the time it takes to process an I-765 OPT application with USCIS. Processing times may take up to three months, so it’s best not to choose the most immediate or earliest date.

Yes! Graduate students who have completed all their required coursework except the thesis or dissertation can apply for OPT. If you have a graduate assistantship, let us know in your OPT request and the last day of your employment. After your I-20 program end date, you cannot work on-campus jobs, including graduate assistantships.
Please check current USCIS processing times here. Most likely, USCIS is experiencing delays and is still reviewing your application. Please be patient and check your case status periodically. If you expected to begin work but your OPT is still pending, please communicate the delay with your employer. Remember: students cannot begin working until their OPT is approved!

If your OPT has been approved, your EAD card will be sent in the mail. Please check to make sure your address is up to date in your online USCIS account.

If your address has changed, update it as soon as possible. USCIS sends the EAD card to the address listed in your USCIS account.

If you lost, misplaced, or destroyed your EAD card, please visit this page to replace it. You will need to complete another I-765 application, pay the fee again, and upload the same documents as the first time.

If your OPT has been approved and your EAD card never arrived in the mail, complete this form.

Yes, you can take additional courses or extracurricular classes on OPT as a non-degree seeking student. However, you cannot begin a degree program while on OPT.
Students have a total of 90 unemployment days during their OPT.

Please visit this page on how to enter your employer information. You do not need to upload your offer letter into the SEVP Portal. However, please keep a copy of your offer letter for your records. Additionally, please review OPT Best Practices.

Try troubleshooting by following these steps. If you have run out of attempts, please contact us and we will reset your SEVP Portal account.
If you entered all your employer information in your SEVP Portal account, you do not need to follow up with our office.