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International Student Services

F-1 Employment: Optional Practical Training

If you are an F-1 student, then Optional Practical Training, or OPT, allows you to work off-campus in your field of study for 12 months. Check below for details on how to apply. On the left-hand side of the screen, you'll find other sections to click through so you can learn important information about the OPT benefit. On the right-hand side, you'll find a virtual workshop that will help you understand the OPT application process.

How to Apply:

This online workshop gives you a complete overview of the OPT process. Watching the online workshop is very important so that you understand the OPT process.

We are pleased that you have decided to extend your stay in the US and apply for post-completion OPT. While you are on OPT, you remain in F-1 student immigration status and ISS staff will continue provide you with immigration and advising support. The $100 SEVIS maintenance fee will offset the expenses of mandatory SEVIS compliance and record management after your graduation. The SEVIS maintenance fee is not required for applications for pre-completion OPT (OPT that occurs during the program of study). This fee is separate from the $410 application fee paid directly to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Follow this link to pay the $100 Post-completion OPT SEVIS Maintenance Fee.

  • OPT I-20 Request Form (required), located in the ISS Forms Library.
  • I-765 (optional): ISS will check the I-765 for completion if you wish. You are responsible for confirming the accuracy of all information and for ensuring that you are submitting the most current version of the I-765 from the USCIS website.

This can take up to 5 business days.

• Your Academic Advisor Form & OPT Statement of Responsibility should not be submitted to USCIS. These are internal ISS forms.
• Your OPT application must reach USCIS within 30 days after your ISS advisor makes the OPT recommendation in SEVIS.
• The following checklist is a recommendation. But you should always check the official I-765 instructions on the USCIS website prior to mailing your application.

  • G-1145
  •  I-765
    *Your signature must be a “wet signature” in black ink. A digital or scanned signature is not acceptable on the I-765.
    *Make sure to use extremely clear handwriting or type your information other than the signature.
    *Always make sure you’re using the most recent form available on the official USCIS website.
    *Using the ISS Office address as your mailing address is not recommended. It does not have an impact on your OPT application in any way and it is preferable for you to use your own personal address or an “ICO” (in care of) address to which you will have access.
  • Copy of new OPT I-20 (an ISS Advisor will create the new I-20 and email to you after reviewing the forms mentioned above)
    *You should print 2 copies of the I-20 sent to you via email. Sign and date both. Keep one copy for yourself. Mail the other copy to USCIS.
  • Copy of Passport Photo Page
  • Copy of F-1 visa
  • I-94 (can be obtained here by selecting “Get Most Recent I-94.”)
  • Check or money order made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. For the filing fee amount, see the USCIS Form I-765 website and scroll to “Filing Fee” under “Form Details.” At this time, F-1 students do not have to pay the biometrics fee because they file in the (C)(3)(B), (C)(3)(C), or (C)(3)(A) category.
    *ISS recommends that you do not utilize the Form G-1450, as we have seen students’ applications be denied due to issues with credit card numbers not being accepted.
  • 2 New Passport Photos
    *Taken within the last 30 days
    *With name and I-94 number written on the back.
    *For examples of acceptable passport photos, see the DOS website.
    *You can get appropriate passport photos taken at a drugstore such as CVS or at a mailing store such as Fed-Ex. If you wish to take the photos yourself, review the Department of State’s tool for taking digital photos.

If you wish to file your OPT application online, see this section of our website.

  • Filing your application by mail:
  • Mail your application to the address listed on USCIS’ Direct Filing Addresses section.
    • You should navigate to the section for “Foreign Students,” then navigate to the first row for Optional Practical Training.
    • Choosing regular mailing vs. courier mailing does not have an impact on your application. P.O. Boxes cannot be used by courier mail services, which is why there’s a separate address for courier services.
    • ISS recommends that you always mail your application with a tracking number.
    • ISS recommends that you keep a digital scan of all your application materials in your personal files.
  • Filing your application online: If you wish to file your OPT application online, see this section of our website.
  • It typically takes 90 days for your OPT application to process.
  • Regularly check the status of your OPT application on the USCIS website.
  • You might wonder if it's possible to expedite your application. You can see the official expedite criteria on the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services website. There is a very high standard for proving that a case requires expedited handling and students do not typically qualify.
  • Even if you mailed your OPT application, ISS recommends setting up an online account with USCIS once you get your receipt number. Doing this will provide you with tracking and communication benefits.
  • After approval, you should receive your employment authorization card (EAD card) within 1 - 4 weeks to the address you listed on your I-765.
  • If you already have employment, you can be legally hired after receiving your EAD card in the mail. 
  • If you are still searching for employment, you have up to 90 days to find a job!
  • For more details on job requirements while on OPT, see here.
  • It is very rare for a UofSC student's OPT application to be denied as long as the application guidelines were followed appropriately. If your application is denied, contact ISS immediately so we can be of support to you. 

The University of South Carolina provides access to Interstride for all international students. Interstride empowers and assists international students in their career exploration and job search experience. Some of Interstride’s features include:

  • A job and internship search engine
  • Visa and immigration support (H1B)
  • Webinars and workshops
  • Networking with classmates and alumni
  • Resources on career topics

To create an account and utilize this platform, please click here.

Resources from Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

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