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.
Students who have been in lawful, full-time student status for at least one full academic year are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT. Any period of OPT used before the completion of the program is subtracted from the 12-month total limit. Students may be authorized for 12 months of OPT and become eligible for another 12 months of OPT when they change to higher education level (i.e., from Bachelors to Masters; from Masters to PhD). The 12-month total limit of OPT applies to each educational level (Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degree programs).
The USCIS Processing Center must receive the complete OPT application and all required documents (see below) before the final deadline, which is the 60th day from the official program end date. Failure to comply with this deadline will result in loss of the entire OPT benefit.
USCIS processing times can take as long as 3-4 months. Please apply as soon as possible to ensure that you receive Employment Authorization Document (EAD) on time. The EAD is the offical work permit issued by USCIS that allows you to be hired and work in the U.S.A. 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.
Important: Students are not permitted to begin employment until they receive the EAD and until the approved start date listed on the EAD.
All students who wish to apply for pre-completion or post-completion OPT must attend an ISO OPT information session. Attendance of this session is required to submit your OPT application.
To sign up for an OPT session online at iMIT.mit.edu; under Full Client Services, click on "Session Sign-ups", then select "Optional Practical Training (OPT) Information Session".
OPT Information Sessions are offered once a week during the semesters (twice a week during parts of February and March). If OPT Information Sessions are full, please email us at iso-help @ mit.edu so that we can arrange for additional sessions.
After you have attended an OPT session, you may submit a request for your OPT Form I-20 online at iMIT.mit.edu; choose “F-1 Practical Training”, then “Optional Practical Training”.
It will take our office up to two weeks to prepare your new Form I-20 with OPT recommendation, after which you need to submit your application to the USCIS.
For the OPT I-20 request to the ISO, please prepare the following documents.
For post-completion OPT:
For pre-completion OPT:
The ISO advisor will issue a new I-20 Form with OPT recommendation on page 2 of the I-20 form. After approximately 5 to 10 business days, you must pick up this I-20 form from the ISO. Please sign it and make a copy of pages 1 and 2. You will need the copy of this I-20 form to appy for OPT.
Important: The application and the required documents must be mailed and received at the USCIS Processing Center within 29 days from the date the ISO advisor recommended the OPT and issued the new I-20 form.
Checklist of documents to be mailed to USCIS:
(Please put together your application in the following order.)
Please mail documents either visa U.S. Postal Service or via Private Courier Service to the address below. This USCIS address is valid for students with a mailing address within Massachusetts as stated on #3 of the I-765 form. Please read the I-765 Instructions at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765 for more information on mailing.
Tip: Keep a copy of all documents submitted to USCIS for your records. Also, you should keep a mailing return receipt of your package as evidence that you submitted the application in a timely manner.
Via U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries (choose Priority mail with Return Receipt):
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
Via Private Courier Service:
2501 S. State Hwy. 121
Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
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 (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.
Students may accumulate up to a maximum of 90 days of unemployment during 12 months of authorized OPT. Days of unemployment begin to accumulate:
Accumulating more than 90 days of unemployment is considered a violation of F-1 status by USDHS.
Travel while on OPT is not restricted. 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.A. after graduation.
You must carry the following documents when entering the U.S.A. during post-completion OPT. If you are missing any one of these documents you risk being denied entry and losing your OPT.
You can apply for the Social Security Number 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 a Social Security Number, you do not have to apply again.