Application Process

USCIS introduces online filing option for OPT and STEM OPT applications

On April 12, 2021 USCIS announced that F-1 students applying for Optional Practical Training and STEM OPT extensions can file Form I-765 online.  It is important to remember that the first step in applying for OPT is to request the OPT recommendation from OVIS.  You will need the new Form I-20 with the OPT or STEM OPT recommendation from OVIS in order to submit your application to USCIS. 

OVIS will be updating our OPT and STEM OPT application materials to include information about online filing.  Students can choose whether to file online or by mail.  Additional information about the online filing process can be found on the USCIS and Study in the States websites. 


It can take several months to receive the OPT work card, so we recommend that you apply as early as possible.

Pre-completion OPT

For working before graduation. Students can apply no earlier than 90 days before they have been enrolled and in F-1 status for three terms.

Post-completion OPT

For working after graduation. Students may file applications with USCIS for OPT 90 days before the program end date on the Form I-20. Applications must be received and accepted at USCIS within 60 days after the program end date as long as you have not left the United States. During this time, you may prepare to depart the U.S., transfer to another U.S. school or petition to change your visa status.


Students may file applications with USCIS as early as 90 days before the OPT end date. Applications must be received and accepted at USCIS by the OPT end date.

Requesting a Form I-20 Recommending OPT

Prior to submitting an "OPT Request" eform, you must complete the Optional Practical Training (OPT) Workshop on If OVIS did not add the workshop to your courses, follow this link to self-enroll. After completing the workshop, you can sign-up for a Post-completion OPT Q&A session with an OVIS advisor, from the iDartmouth Services Home Page, under Events.

Submit the appropriate form: F-1 Employment "OPT Request" or "STEM Extension Request" using iDartmouth.

Within the form request, you will be required to upload the following documents:

  • A copy of your current passport biographical page
  • A copy of the front and back of your most recent I-94 card if you entered the U.S. by land, or a copy of your admission stamp and electronic I-94 record printout if you entered by air or sea
  • If filing by paper: draft of USCIS Form I-765 found under "Form Documents and Downloads"
  • If filing online: screenshot of your eligiblity category from the Online Form I-765 application found under myUSCIS --> Getting Started --> Basic Eligibility

If you are using a public scanner, a copy of the documents you are scanning may be retained on the computer attached to the scanner and might be viewed by others. Please remember to delete your documents from the computer after you have sent your scan.

Submitting the Application

You will need to have the Form I-20 with OPT/STEM recommendation from OVIS before you submit your I-765 OPT application to USCIS. You have the option to submit your application to USCIS by mail or online. Complete instructions for submitting the application will be provided by your OVIS advisor when your OPT recommendation I-20 is issued. Your Post-Completion OPT application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date your OPT recommendation is entered into SEVIS and before the end of your grace period.

USCIS is not processing applications within certain time frames. You may not legally begin your employment until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card and the employment authorization start date listed on your EAD card has been reached

Cancelling Your Application

You may request that the OPT application be withdrawn and the recommendation in SEVIS be cancelled, but only if you have recently mailed it to the government. Contact your OVIS advisor as soon as possible. Once your OPT application has been approved by the immigration service, it cannot be cancelled or revoked.