Students must not pursue any off-campus employment without proper authorization.
April 14, 2021: ISO advises that students continue to file OPT applications via PAPER and by MAIL to USCIS until clarifications can be received about how photos will be included for newly allowed online filing of Form I-765 applications for OPT and STEM OPT Extension. ISO will update students as soon as additional information is available.
January 8, 2021: USCIS announced an adjustment of filing location in Chicago for new filings of foreign student Form I-765 employment authorization applications (including F-1 OPT and F-1 STEM OPT). The new filing/mailing address is available on the instructions for the Form I-765 and the Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765 on the USCIS website.
The USCIS Lockboxes in Texas and in Phoenix continue to process I-765 applications already received.
Delays in receiving Receipt notifications for applications filed with USCIS? Please consult the ISO Knowledge Base Guidance on Receipt Notification delays.
Authorization must be received before beginning any off-campus work, internship, or related employment activity. Pursuing off-campus employment activity without proper authorization could jeopardize the ability to complete your MIT academic program and obtain any future U.S. visas.
What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
OPT is a benefit authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that extends the F-1 student status to allow you to work in the U.S.A. in order to gain practical training in your major field of study.
- An employment offer is not required to apply for OPT.
- OPT must be directly related to the student’s major field of study.
How to Sign-Up for an ISO F-1 OPT Employment Information Session
In order to apply for OPT, all students must first attend an F-1 CPT/OPT Employment Information Session. If a student is applying for OPT and it has been more than one year since previously attending an Employment Information Session, it is recommended to attend a new session.
During the campus closure due to COVID-19, the ISO is making available our “F-1 Practical Training (OPT-CPT) Information Session” audio presentation (a copy of the PDF slides only available here) for students to review in place of attending an in-person session. No Sign Up is required as the presentation/slides are available for review at any time on the ISO Website. For students submitting a Form I-20 Request for CPT or OPT applications in iMIT, on the eform “Attending the F-1 CPT/OPT Information Session” under the scheduled session date type the date you completed your review of all of the presentation slides; and under ISO Advisor who conducted your workshop please type “Online”.
Students who have been in lawful, full-time student status for at least one full academic year (combination of Fall and Spring semester) are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT to use during or after completion of a degree program. Any period of OPT used before the completion of the program of study is subtracted from the 12-month total limit. Students may be authorized for up to 12 months of full-time OPT and become eligible for another 12 months of OPT when they change to a progressively higher education level (i.e., from Bachelors to Masters; from Masters to PhD). The 12-months of OPT limit applies to each educational level (Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degree programs).
- Only students pursuing a degree are allowed to apply for OPT.
- Special non-degree students are not eligible to apply for OPT.
Applying for Post-Completion OPT
Post-Completion OPT must be requested for “Full-Time”, since the authorization will be for training after completion of all degree requirements. All training must be directly related to the degree major field of study pursued at MIT.
- The USCIS Processing Center must receive the complete F-1 OPT application, and all required documents (see below), no earlier than 90 days prior to completion of degree requirements and no later than 60 days after completion of degree. Failure to comply with this application window, either filing too early or too late, may result in loss of the entire OPT benefit.
USCIS processing times can take as long as 3-4 months. Please apply in a timely manner to ensure that you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card on time. The EAD is the official work permit issued by USCIS that allows you to be hired and work in the U.S. during OPT. It is not possible to request an expedite of an OPT application from USCIS, so please plan your OPT start date accordingly and allow for at least 100 days to receive your EAD card from time of filing.
Important: Students are not permitted to begin employment until they receive the EAD and until the approved start date listed on the EAD.
How to Apply
All students who wish to apply for Post-Completion OPT must attend an ISO F-1 CPT/OPT Employment Information Session. Attendance of this session is required to submit your OPT application.
After you have attended an F-1 Employment Information Session, you may submit a request for your Form I-20 with OPT recommendation online at iMIT.mit.edu; choose “F-1 Practical Training”, then “Optional Practical Training Application”.
It will take the ISO up to 10 business days to prepare your new Form I-20 with OPT recommendation, after which you need to submit your application to the USCIS.
To request the Form I-20 for Post-Completion OPT, please follow the instructions in iMIT and prepare/provide the following documents.
- $150.00 MIT Administrative Fee for post-completion OPT authorization periods of more than 15 weeks (Payable online by debit or credit card)
- Letter signed by department administrator academic on departmental letterhead (required, upload to iMIT.mit.edu)
The letter should certify that:
(a) the student is in good academic standing;
(b) enrolled in a specific degree level and major field of study;
(c) the practical experience the student is seeking is directly related to his/her field of study; and
(d) the date on which the student will complete the program (this is the official graduation date or the date on which you are expected to complete all requirements including submission/sign off of final dissertation/thesis by department and Registrar).
- Please make a decision about the OPT start date before you request the OPT I-20. Post-completion OPT must begin within 60 days after the program completion date.
The ISO Advisor will issue a new Form I-20 with OPT recommendation on page 2 of the Form. When the new Form I-20 has been generated, you will receive an email to pick up the Form from the ISO. You will need to include a photocopy of the new Form I-20, along with other documentation, to submit an application for OPT.
Mailing the OPT Application to USCIS
Note: Students must be physically present inside the U.S. at the time the OPT application is received/receipted by USCIS; therefore, students can only mail/submit the application to USCIS while you are physically present in the U.S.
Important: The OPT application must be received by the USCIS Processing Center within 29 days from the date the ISO Advisor recommended the OPT and signed the new Form I-20.
Checklist of documents to be mailed to USCIS:
(Please put together your application in the following order. Do not staple your documents. Be sure to keep a photocopy, or scanned copy, of all documents mailed to USCIS for your records.)
- Bank-Certified Check or Money Order for Form I-765 application fee (check USCIS Form I-765 webpage to confirm fee amount) made payable to “US Department of Homeland Security” OR Form G-1450 with credit card information (in the memo line of the check/money order, please write “Form I-765” and your SEVIS ID number.)
- (Optional) Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance. To receive a text message and/or email when USCIS has received/receipted your Form I-765 OPT application.
- 2 passport photos (less than 30 days old) (Write your name and SEVIS # number in pencil or felt pen lightly on the back and towards the bottom of each photo — so as to not damage the photos or have writing appear on the face of the photo. Paper clip photos on top of Form I-765. Further information is available at https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/photos.html)
- Original Form I-765 with signature (https://www.uscis.gov/i-765, use most recent edition, read all the I-765 Instructions, type your form instead of handwriting, sign in black ink, please keep a photocopy for your records). Be sure to click on this USCIS link to use MOST CURRENT Form I-765.
- Copy of any previous Employment Authorization Documents (EAD cards), front and back, if applicable
- Copy of new Form I-20 with OPT recommendation (Pages 1 and 2; please remember to sign your I-20)
- Copies of all previous Forms I-20 (in order from newest to earliest issuance date — Pages 1 and travel signature page – including forms issued by MIT and any previous institution)
- Copy of I-94 card (front and back) or electronic Form I-94 Form
(retrieve the I-94 number from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/)
- Copy of identity pages in passport (pages with name, photo, date of birth, passport number, issue and expiration date — passport must be valid)
- Copy of F-1 Visa (even if the visa is expired) – NOTE: Does not apply to Citizens of Canada, who are not issued an F-1 visa issued by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. Students do not need a valid F-1 entry visa in their passport to be eligible to apply for Post-Completion OPT)
Please mail your OPT application documents via express mail either via U.S. Postal Service (USPS) or via Private Courier Service (FedEx, DHL, UPS) to the proper USCIS mailing address indicated for OPT applications in the Form I-765 Instructions at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765.
- Keep a copy of all documents submitted to USCIS for your records. Also, keep a mailing return receipt of your package as evidence that you submitted the application in a timely manner.
- The U.S. Postal Service cannot forward USCIS government mail using the USPS Mail Forwarding service. If you need to update the mailing address on the Form I-765 after you submit the application to USCIS, please contact your ISO Advisor for more information.
Students must not begin their internship/experience until they receive the Approval of their OPT application, have the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card in hand, and the “valid from”//start date on the EAD card has arrived. Pursuing off-campus employment activity without proper authorization could jeopardize the ability to complete your MIT academic program, require departure from the U.S., and difficulty obtaining any future U.S. visas.
Reporting Requirements while on OPT
Students in F-1 status authorized for employment under OPT are responsible for maintaining their nonimmigrant status. According to Federal Regulations, F-1 students are required to report information directly to the ISO regarding their employment, as well as changes to personal information and immigration status. Failure to comply with these reporting requirements may result in denial of future benefits by USDHS (i.e. extension of employment under the H-1B OPT Cap-Gap rule and STEM OPT program) and termination of status and OPT authorization.
Click on F-1 Post-Completion OPT: Reporting Requirements for detailed information on how to report your information.
Periods of Unemployment While on OPT
Students may accumulate up to a maximum of 90 days of unemployment during the 12 month period of authorized OPT. Days of unemployment begin to accumulate:
- If employment does not start on the approved start date of OPT as listed on the EAD
- If you receive the EAD after the approved start date of OPT on the EAD
- Between periods of employment
Accumulating more than 90 days of unemployment is considered a violation of F-1 status by USDHS.
What constitutes qualified employment?
- For OPT, paid or non-paid training or activity in a position directly related to the student’s MIT degree program/major field of study, of a minimum of 20 hours per week that is for one employer or a combination of multiple employers — including short-term employers, contracting work (evidence of duration of contract, name of company and address needed), self-employed business owner (proper business license and evidence of active engagement in business needed), a startup, or employment through an agency or consulting firm.
- Unpaid activity/training in a position directly related to the student’s MIT degree program/major field of study as a volunteer or intern that does not violate labor laws, with one employer or a combination of employers, and is at least 20 hours per week.
Travel after the Completion of Program while on Post-completion OPT
Travel outside the U.S. is allowed while on authorized OPT. However, based on USDHS practice, the ISO recommends that you wait until you receive the EAD and secure employment before making plans to leave the U.S. after completion of degree (as proof of OPT authorization and training/job offer in the U.S. is required to re-enter the U.S.)
Students must carry the following documents when entering the U.S. throughout the period of authorized Post-Completion OPT. If you are missing any one of these documents you risk being denied entry to the U.S. and/or losing the OPT authorization.
- EAD card
- Letter from OPT employer verifying position offer, dates of employment/training, location of training activity, supervisor contact information, and any salary/stipend received.
- OPT Form I-20 with travel validation signature on Page 2 of the Form from the ISO that is not older than 6 months from planned date of re-entry to the U.S. (Only an ISO Advisor can endorse the Form I-20 with a travel validation signature.)
- Valid F-1 entry visa stamp issued by the U.S. Consulate (if your F-1 entry visa has expired by the date of your return to the U.S., you must apply for a new F-1 entry visa while abroad at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate). Do NOT use a Tourist visa (B-1/B-2) or Visa Waiver Program (WV / ESTA) to enter the U.S. while on OPT, as that will cancel your OPT authorization.
- Valid passport
(NOTE: Students who are not traveling outside the U.S. do not need to have a valid F-1 entry visa in their passport to remain in the U.S. Students just need a valid Form I-20, I-94 record noting F-1 status, and once approved the EAD card showing authorized F-1 OPT, and active OPT employment to remain in the U.S. If a student leaves the U.S. while on authorized OPT, then the student must apply for a new F-1 entry visa at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad in order to return to the U.S. in F-1 status on OPT).
Social Security Number
You can apply for the Social Security Number (SSN) on the start date of OPT as printed on your EAD card. Please see instructions at our Social Security Number webpage for more information. If you have already have an SSN, you do not have to apply again — the SSN is valid for your lifetime.