How do I apply for Optional Practical Training?

How to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT):

1. You do not need a job offer to apply. However, once you find a qualifying job, you must notify the Immigration Advisor at UCSB International Programs by contacting them at the Help Center.

2. The earliest you can apply for OPT is 90 days before your program completion date and no later than 60 days after your program end date as indicated on your I-20.

3. You must complete UCSB International Program's OPT Form Request first to initiate the OPT request process and specify the start date of your OPT. UCSB International Program's Immigration Advisor will make a request in the government database for your work authorization. The Advisor will provide you with a new, OPT-notated I-20.

4. Gather all documents in PDF and supporting materials to submit with the application for employment authorization, which will include the following:

  • A copy of I-94 from (Get most recent I-94)
  • A copy of a valid passport (copy of the BIO page)
  • A copy of the F1 visa, if applicable (visa page)
  • A photocopy of your OPT-notated I-20 (don't forget to sign it!)
  • Photocopies of any previous Employment Authorization Documents (EAD), if applicable
  • Two identical photographs (photograph instructions are found on the Form I-765 instructions under Required Documentation)
  • The $410 filing fee (payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security - have your credit card ready)

5. Once the Immigration Advisor sends your I20 with the OPT noted, you must file Form I-765 "Application for Employment Authorization" within 30 days from the date on the I20. The Form will be filled out online, no need to download it as a PDF or print it.

6. Go to the USCIS website to start your application. Create an account and follow the instructions. Once you complete your profile, choose "Form I-765 - Application for Employment Authorization" to be filed. You can upload all the documents online through the USCIS portal.

7. Lastly, final OPT decisions are made completely by the US government. UCSB International Programs is not involved in this process. Please DO NOT leave the U.S. if your OPT is not approved yet.

8. You should also report your status to the SEVP student portal. Students who fail to report or enter their information in the Portal in a timely manner or otherwise fail to comply with their reporting requirements may be deemed to be in violation of their nonimmigrant status. If you have found work that is related to your studies, you are responsible for reporting your employment to us and explaining, in writing, how the job relates to your major area of study so that the information can be reported in SEVIS or otherwise retained. 

Feel free to download the Optional Practical Training Guidelines for more details.