How to Apply

All F-1 students who plan to apply for either pre-completion or post-completion OPT must follow the following procedure. There are three steps in an OPT application:

1.    Watch the OPT instructional video below to learn how to put an application packet together
2.    Submit the packet to the HIO to obtain an OPT recommendation
3.    Mail the OPT packet with the HIO recommendation to USCIS







OPT Application Information

• Once you have watched the video you are expected to complete the required forms, put together the application, and submit the application to the HIO.
• The HIO will provide the OPT recommendation in the form of a new I-20. Once the new I-20 is issued you will get an e-mail from the HIO to pick up your OPT packet. If you choose to have your OPT paperwork mailed back to you, please include a self-addressed large envelope with your application.
• Your packet will include detailed written instructions on how to complete your application and instructions on how to mail the application to USCIS
• In most cases, provided that you have obtained the required recommendation from your HIO advisor and submitted the required documents to USCIS, OPT is not denied by USCIS. However, problems occur when the application guidelines are not followed (e.g. incorrect mailing address, wrong photograph format, etc.).
• Students who apply for post-completion OPT and then fail to graduate on the date indicated in their applications risk violating their student visa status and possibly forfeiting their OPT. Students who do not graduate as planned must contact their HIO advisors immediately.

Instructions to Complete Form I-765

Download the Form I-765

• I am applying for:  Check “Permission to Accept Employment
• Items 1-2:  List your name as it appears on your Form I-20 or any other legal names used.
• Item 3:  Use an address that will be valid 3-5 months into the future. If you will move out of your place in less than 3 months, consider using the address of a reliable friend or relative in the Northeastern part of the U.S. who can receive the card for you.  EADs are considered government documents and cannot be forwarded by the U.S. Postal Service. If you use the address of a friend, the first line of your address in item 3 should read “C/O” (“in care of”) followed by the last name of your friend.  Then you can list the street number, etc.   
• Item 4:  List your country of citizenship as it appears on your Form I-20.
• Items 5-8:  These items are self-explanatory. Please fill in the correct information.
• Item 9:  Enter your SSN. Leave this box blank if you do not have an SSN. (You do not need an SSN to apply for OPT. If you do not have one, you can apply for a Social Security Number after you receive your EAD.)
• Item 10: Enter the eleven (11) digit number from your I-94 printout.
• Item 11: If you have ever submitted the Form I-765 to USCIS for a previous OPT, place an “X” in the box for “Yes”.  Then indicate to which USCIS office you sent the application and the dates of approval or denial. Remember to include a copy of your previous EAD in your supporting documents.
• Item 12: This number refers to the most recent date on which you entered the U.S. in F-1 status. It is usually stamped in your passport in your last trip back to the U.S.
• Item 13: This section refers to the U.S. city where you most recently entered the U.S.
• Item 14: This item refers to the status you were given by USCIS the last time you entered the U.S. If you entered as F-1 you should enter “student” in this space. If you entered in some other status, please discuss it with the advisor.
• Item 15: This item refers to your current immigration status which should be "F-1". In most cases, this will be the same as the status that was entered in item number 14.
• Item 16: Enter the following in this section: For pre-completion OPT enter (C) (3) (A); for post-completion OPT enter (C) (3) (B).
• Items 17-19: You do not need to complete these items. Just leave them blank. Under "certification", please sign and date the form using blue ink.  Give the telephone number where you can be reached easily if USCIS has questions about your application.

Instructions to Complete OPT Date Verification Form

Download the OPT Date Verification Form 

• Employer information: You do not need to complete the employer name and address section unless you already have an employer at the time of the OPT application.
• Requested dates of OPT:
Pre-completion OPT: you may choose any date you wish to start and end your employment, but you cannot apply more than 90 days in advance of the proposed start date.
Post-completion OPT: you may request a start date that is any date between the day after your graduation or program completion date and 60 days after that date. The end date of your OPT should be 12 months from the requested start date if you have not used OPT during your program. If you have used OPT during your program you must subtract the time you used. For example, if you used 2 months of full time OPT during your program, your end date will be 10 months from the requested start date. Please note that CPT time used does not get subtracted from OPT. However, 12 months of full-time CPT disqualifies you from applying for post completion OPT.
• Put an X in Full-Time or Part-Time since it is important for the HIO recommendation.
• Sign the bottom of the form  


OPT Application Checklist

Dowload the OPT Checklist

Please put together the items below in the following order when you submit your application to the HIO;

• A completed Form I-765
• A completed OPT Date Verification Form
• A photocopy of all pages of the Forms I-20 issued to you, from all schools you have attended
• A photocopy of the U.S. visa stamp in your passport (not applicable to Canadian citizens)
• A photocopy of the biographical page(s) of your passport
• A printout of I-94
• A photocopy of USCIS approval notice from any change(s) of status (if applicable)
• A photocopy of previous Employment Authorization Cards (if applicable)
• For post-completion OPT only: a personal check or money order of $150 made payable to Harvard University; this is a one-time non-refundable fee.
• GSAS STUDENTS ONLY: a letter from your department stating new completion of studies date if different from what is on your I-20

* Note: In addition to the items listed above, you will need to add the following to your application before mailing it to USCIS: 2 recent passport sized photographs and a check made payable to the Department of Homeland Security for $410.

You will be notified via email when your OPT packet is ready for pick up from the HIO.


OPT Video Part II video.

Now that you have picked up your OPT packet from the HIO, please watch the OPT Part II video.  This video provides instructions about completing your application and mailing to USCIS, as well as regulations and responsbilities once your OPT has been approved.