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overview and definition

Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (Post-Completion OPT) is designed to provide graduating students an opportunity to gain temporary employment experience within their program of study for one year after they have completed their program. Permission for this temporary employment is obtained through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The employment must be directly related to the student's major field of study and it must be appropriate for the level of education. Students may work anywhere in the United States and are required to report their employment

Please note that this is not an entitled benefit. USCIS has the right to deny any OPT application at their discretion. It is the student's responsibility to ensure they are paying the correct fee and filling out the correct application. 

OPT Workshop Event Details

Attendance is mandatory to avoid any confusion in the process and ask advisors questions. Registration is required through UAtlas and opens 30 days prior to each workshop. Below is a schedule of dates for the 2024 year.

Semester Date Time
Spring Friday, January 26, 2024 2 PM to 3:30 PM (MST)
Spring  Friday, March 8, 2024 2 PM to 3:30 PM (MST)
Summer Thursday, May 23, 2024 11  AM to 12:30 PM (MST)
Fall Friday, August 30, 2024 2 PM to 3:30 PM (MST)
Fall Friday, October 04, 2024 2 PM to 3:30 PM (MST)
Fall Thuesday, November 19, 2024 11 AM to 12:30 PM


Students interested in attending  walk-in advising are encouraged to come with specific questions to the application but we will not review the entire application. Please review the "Applying for the Post-OPT I-20" section below.

Students must have been in lawful status for an academic year (two consecutive full-time semesters) prior to the start of the Post-Completion OPT.

Students must have an anticipated program end date.

Students must be graduating with a Bachelor's, Masters or PhD degree. 

Non-degree students, students attending certificate programs, and those doing post-doctoral research are not qualified for OPT.

Students transitioning to the University of Utah main campus from the Asia Campus must have completed two consecutive semesters at the main (Salt Lake City) campus and must be attending the main campus in their final semester to be eligible to apply for OPT.

Students must not have accumulated more than 12 months of full-time CPT during the student's current degree level. Students are responsible for tracking their full-time CPT months. 

Students in terminated status are not eligible for OPT. 

More information can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions under "General." 

The Post-Completion OPT I-20 will be processed by ISSS within 10 business days once the application is submitted.

ISSS is not able to expedite any request as we strive to provide fair and equitable service to all students. It is the student's responsibility to ensure they submit their request in a timely manner.

Calling or emailing ISSS to ask for your request to be expedited will slow down the process. We ask that you patiently wait until a decision is made. 

Student must submit the OPT application to USCIS  within 30 days from when the I-20 was issued by ISSS. Contact ISSS immediately if you have not submitted your OPT application to USCIS and your I-20 is older than 30 days. 

If requesting for a new OPT I-20, students must submit a NEW OPT I-20 request to ISSS and not an I-20 Reprint Request. 

Students on approved Post-OPT are allowed up to 90 days of unemployment during their authorized OPT. Students must work at least 21 hours per week or more to be considered employed full-time. If students are working fewer than 20 hours per week, they will be using up unemployment days. 

Students must report their employment to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Portal to avoid using up their 90 days of unemployment. 

Students are responsible for notifying USCIS of their employment within 10 days of starting or ending their job. For more information about the SEVP Portal and reporting employment, students are encouraged to navigate to the Reporting Post-Completion OPT page. 

Travelling on Post-Completion OPT can be complicated depending on when the student plans to travel and if the application is pending or approved. More information about traveling can be found in our Frequently Asked Questions section. 


Post-completion opt process

Before submitting an e-form to ISSS, the student must attend the Mandatory OPT Workshop to better understand the process of applying for OPT and when to apply for OPT.

Apply as Early as Possible

The OPT application window will open 90 days BEFORE the program end date (more information in the next section.) Students will also have the option to apply for OPT up to 60 days (grace period) AFTER the program end date. Students cannot submit an application to USCIS before the 90 day period or after the 60 day period as it will result in a denial. 

It is recommended that students apply during the 90 day window in order to submit and receive a decision in a timely manner. For processing time, please see the Processing Times from USCIS.


Choosing an OPT Start Date

Students are not eligible to begin working UNTIL the approved OPT start date as listed on the OPT EAD card. The OPT Start Date is only a request and may change. 

Before submitting a request to ISSS for an OPT I-20, students will need to pick a start date for their OPT. The start date must fall between the program end date on your I-20 and the 60-day grace period that follows.

Below are some suggestions to help the student make the right decision when picking a start date:

Choosing an Earlier OPT Start Date

Students will choose an earlier start date if they have a job lined up. If the student chooses an earlier start date and cannot find a job quickly, the student is at risk of losing unemployment days. If the student uses up their entire 90 days of unemployment they will need to leave the U.S. 

Choosing a Later OPT Start Date

Most students will choose this option so that they have more time to find a job and have a less chance to be unemployed for 90 days.


Program End Date

The program completion date or program end date is on the student's I-20. Students will apply for OPT based on the semester the students complete program requirements. ISSS will adjust the program completion date on the student's I-20. 

The program completion date corresponds with the last day of finals and not necessarily the date of the graduation ceremony or degree conferral date.


Graduate Thesis Students

The program completion date may be the last day of the defense semester or the date of the student's thesis defense. It is recommended that students consult with an ISSS advisor prior to making a final decision.


Post-Completion OPT Sample Application Timeline

image contains text that shows the timeline of applying for post-completion OPT. Must have completed two consecutive semesters to be eligible to apply. OPT application window is 150 days. 90 days before the program end date to 60 days after. Normal USCIS processing time is around 3 months, however, please be aware it may take longer. It is recommended to apply during the 90 day window. If you submit your application towards the end of the allowed application period, you may lose part of your 12 months eligiblity. Choose any day within the 60 day grace period for OPT start date. You cannot choose a start date beyond 60 days after graduation.

Applying for the post-opt i-20 & Form I-765 (Uscis)

  1. Login to UAtlas and go to "F-1 Practical Training"

    Complete the "OPT: Post or Pre Completion I-20 Request" e-form and indicate "Post-Completion OPT"

  1. A Designated School Official (DSO) from ISSS will review the completed application.

    Once the DSO receives the completed application, they will process it within 10 business days. DSO's will review the student's application, course enrollment and once the application is approved, the student will receive an email from ISSS.

  1. Receiving the OPT I-20

    Once the OPT request is approved, the DSO will send the I-20 electronically through UAtlas. Students will receive a second email with instructions on how to retrieve the I-20.  Students are advised to immediately print and sign the I-20 and scan it for the application.

    The OPT I-20 that is issued by ISSS is only valid for 30 days. Students will need to apply for OPT before the OPT I-20 is considered "old."  Students who have an old OPT I-20 will need to submit a new request to ISSS.  Do NOT file for OPT with USCIS using an OPT I-20 that is more than 30 days old. We recommend that you submit it well before it reaches the 30 day mark. More information can be found in our policy section under OPT I-20 (30 Day Validity).

  1. Prepare OPT Application for USCIS

    Students are required to attend an OPT Workshop by ISSS to avoid confusion and filling out the application incorrectly. ISSS will not offer one-on-one application reviews. More information about the workshops can be found in our Events Calendar

    Below students will have the option to either send the application by mail or online. Students cannot do both options:

    Students are required to review our  guide on how to fill out an application where we have compiled all the questions taken from the application into one document and provide additional information to each question.

    Online application: form i-765 how-to-guide

    Collect Documents to mail with I-765 paper application to USCIS (in the recommended order):

    • G-1145 (for paper application only) - Downloadable from . By completing this form you are requesting an email or text message to be sent to you when your application arrives at the USCIS office. Place this on the top of your application so they are aware of your request.
    • Two U.S. passport type photographs- photos must be taken within the past 30 days and may not be the same photos used for other government requests, such as passport or visa renewals. Print your name and I-94 number clearly on the back of each photo and make sure to not damage the photos. USCIS recommends you use a pencil and write the information lightly but readable. Put the photos in an envelope and attach it to front of I-765 and indicate on the envelope the photos are inside. Ensure the photos are U.S. passport requirements. Photos from your home country may not be the correct size or may be too old to be used.
    • Application Fee- In the form of check or money order, made t o the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. You can find the appropriate fee by using the USCIS Fee Calculator , select “I-765”, “Permission to accept Employment”, “Foreign Students” then “(c)(3)(B)” for post-completion OPT. The fee can also be found 
    • Form I-765 (downloadable from . Instructions on how to complete this form are in the I-765 Instructions guide. Also use the I-765 webpage to confirm the edition date of your Form I-765 is acceptable to USCIS. You can find a Post-Completion OPT mock I-765 form below:

    Paper application opt: sample

    •  A copy of:
      • Post-Completion OPT I-20 issued from ISSS with your requested dates (Remember: USCIS must receive it within 30 days from the issue date). Make sure you sign and date your Post-Completion OPT I-20.
      •  Valid passport identification page (and the expiration date page if it’s on a separate page).
      •  F-1 Visa- the most recent F-1 visa issued to you.
      • I-94 (obtainable at
      • Previous EAD card, include a copy of the front and back (only if you have been approved for OPT in the

    Submit Payment

    The options are below (This is only a guideline, ISSS is not liable for incorrect payments submitted to USCIS)

    • Personal Check - Must be made to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security." Under "For" you will list the SEVIS ID (starts with N, found on your I-20), OPT
    • Money Order:
      • Pay to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security". If the money order asks for the recipient address, you should list the address where you are mailing your application.
      • In the Memo/Payment For Section put "Your SEVIS ID Number, OPT"
      • In the bottom right corner, sign your name in the "From" section.
      • In the money order asks for your purchaser's address, include your mailing address noted on your I-765 application form.
      • Keep the receipt portion of the money order for your records as that is the only way to track your payment.
      • Do not sign the back of the money order as it will void the payment. 

    Mail Documents to USCIS

    1. Keep copies of everything you mail for your own record.
    2. Mail all the required documents (listed on page 5) to USCIS. USCIS must receive your application within 30 days from when your Post-Completion OPT I-20 was issued.
    3. If USCIS receives your packet earlier than 90 days before your program completion date or later than 60 days after your program end date, as listed on the OPT I-20, the packet may be rejected right away or worse, be denied about 3 months later.
    4. To find the appropriate mailing address, please refer to USCIS website:  Also use the I-765 webpage to confirm the edition date of your Form I-765 is acceptable to USCIS.
    5. If you receive I-797 receipt, keep it in a safe place as it is proof of your pending Post-Completion OPT application and allows you to remain in the United States after your program has ended. 


After receiving approval for post-opT

Do not start employment BEFORE receiving the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card. 

  1. Review the Reporting Requirements for Post-Completion OPT

    Students are required to understand the requirements to report while on OPT by reviewing the Reporting Requirements for Post-Completion OPT page.


Last Updated: 3/1/24