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When to Apply

Apply early! Do not wait for a job offer. You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. Allow three months for processing by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You cannot work until you receive OPT approval.

You may submit your application to USCIS as early as 90 days before your program end date and up to 60 days after your program end date. (Your program end date is the last day of your final semester, including final exams week, according to the academic calendar.) Please note that your OPT application must arrive at the USCIS Service Center within 30 days of the OPT I-20 issue date, or the request will be denied.

We strongly encourage you to apply for OPT three months prior to your program end date. Though USCIS will accept your application up to 60 days after your program end date, you cannot begin work until the application is approved. A delayed application may result in delayed work authorization and/or loss of full OPT eligibility (12 months) due to the three-month processing time by USCIS. Your OPT start date can be set for no longer than 60 days after your program end date. Therefore, if you wait until 60 days after your program end date to apply, you could potentially lose 3 months of OPT due to the USCIS processing time, and the USCIS will not adjust your start date.

How to Apply

Please read the following instructions carefully. Although our office provides information, the OPT application is your application. We do not approve the application or have the authority to influence the process. If there is a request for information or to correct a problem, we will notify you of the request but it is your responsibility to respond. Please note that if you choose to travel, it could be difficult to respond to requests from USCIS about your application.

Gather the Following Documents
  • Completed I-765 Form
  • Completed G-1145 Form (optional; this signs you up for email/text message notification of your application's arrival at USCIS)
  • Photocopy of all previously issued I-20s
  • Photocopy of passport identification page
  • Photocopy of F-1 visa page and stamp page
  • Two passport-style photos (see Photo Specifications below)
  • Printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained at CBP.gov/I94
  • Photocopy of previously issued EAD card (if applicable)
  • $410 check or money order payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" (Do not postdate your check. The date format for your check should be as follows: month/day/year)
Photo Specifications
  • Lightly print your name and your I-94 number in pencil on the back of each photo.
  • USCIS photo instructions (see the "Required Documentation" section on page 8)
  • The photos must have been taken within the last 30 days (do not use the same photos used for your F-1 visa application; USCIS might notice and will return the application).
  • The two photos should have a white background.
  • They should be unmounted, printed on thin paper, glossy, and not re-touched.
  • The photos should show a passport-style, full-face image, with both ears visible.
  • The photos should be 2 by 2 inches, with the distance from the top of the head to just below the chin about 1 3/8 inches.
Tips for Completing I-765 Form

Name: Write your name the same way it appears in your passport's machine-readable zone. Characters found in some names (hyphens, accent marks, apostrophes) are unacceptable.
Item 3: Your Receipt Notice and Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) will be mailed to the address you provide.
If you will move soon, note that government mail will not be forwarded, even if you file a change of address request with the U.S. Postal Service. Please provide an address where you know someone will be living for the next several months (in the U.S.)
Item 10: Use the number from your I-94. Most students have an online I-94. Some students will have a paper I-94 card (small, white card in your passport). It is an 11-digit number.
Item 11: Check "yes" only if you have previously received an EAD card from USCIS. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) does not require a "yes" answer because CPT is not authorized by USCIS.
Items 12,13,14,15: Use the information from your I-94 card. In some cases you may have made recent short trips to Canada or Mexico, which are not reflected by your current I-94 card. This is standard and it will be fine to use the information from your I-94 card anyway. If you have changed to F-1 status within the U.S., include a copy of your Approval Notice.
Item 16: Use the applicable code:

  • Pre-completion OPT: (c)(3)(A)
  • Post-completion OPT: (c)(3)(B) (Most applicants will use this!)

Item 17: Leave blank unless you are a STEM major applying for the 24-month OPT extension.
Certification: Sign the form in black ink.

We will review your COMPLETED application materials with you. Once we see everything is okay to be sent, we will create your OPT requested I-20 and give that to you at the appointment. To schedule an appointment send an email to dso@semo.edu or complete the student request form on our website or at the front desk. You MUST schedule an appointment for OPT.

  1. Review the checklist above and your application to make sure it is complete.
  2. Mail your application within 30 days of the new OPT-endorsed I-20 being issued. Late applications will be denied by USCIS.
  • Do not mail your original passport, I-94, or old I-20s.
  • It is recommended you send your application by certified mail, return receipt and tracking number requested.
  • If your I-765 mailing address is in Missouri, mail materials to:
    • For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries
      USCIS
      PO Box 21281
      Phoenix, AZ 85036
    • For Express Mail and Courier Service Deliveries
      USCIS
      Attn: AOS
      1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S.
      Suite 100
      Phoenix, AZ 85034
    • If your I-765 mailing address is outside of Missouri, review the USCIS mailing instructions to find the correct Lockbox location.

USCIS will send you a receipt notice (I-797 Notice of Action) confirming receipt of your OPT application, assigning a "receipt date," and assigning a case number. Carefully review the notice to make sure your name is spelled correctly. If it is not, contact an international advisor immediately.

You may use the case number on your receipt notice to check the status of your application online. It is normal for your case status to say "initial review" for most of the 2-3 month processing period.

You may not begin employment until USCIS approves the OPT application and you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Authorized OPT dates will be on your EAD.

Contact

573.986.6863
international@semo.edu
International Center
International Education and Services
One University Plaza, MS 2000
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701
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