Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an authorization to work in off-campus employment or internships for F-1 students in their major or field of study. Off-campus work is only allowed under certain circumstances. Please check with the ISSO before engaging in any off-campus employment to make sure you have the proper work authorization in place.
International students are eligible for a total of 12 months of Standard OPT for each level of their education, which can be used as:
- Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training
- Post-Completion Optional Practical Training
OPT can be granted in various increments of time. However, any OPT used prior to graduation will be deducted from the total allowed for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training. This means that if you use Pre-Completion OPT, those months will be deducted from the 12-month total.
You may apply for Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training programs up to 90 days before the end of classes. You may apply for Post-Completion Practical Training as early as 90 days before graduation (for May graduates: Mid-February), and as late as 60 days after graduation (for May graduates: Mid-July, as long as you have not left the US).
Applying for Pre-/Post-Completion OPT
- All students must attend at least one OPT information session (listed at bottom of this page) at the ISSO before submitting an OPT application.
- Prepare all materials for OPT Application (see OPT Application Materials tab). Complete the OPT Request form. If applying online, create an account on uscis.gov website and create a draft I-765 application, but do not submit.
- Make a one-hour OPT appointment with Dean Caitlin to review your application. Bring all materials, including the OPT Request Form, to your appointment, or email files to the office ahead of your appointment time.
- ISSO will issue you a new I-20 with an OPT recommendation, and will make copies of your application for our records and yours.
- Submit your application with all accompanying documentation to USCIS within 30 days of your appointment. If mailing a paper application, we recommend using a shipping method with tracking! Please note - all applications must be mailed from within the United States.
Assemble the following, and attach on left-hand side in this order for paper applications, or upload to your online application. See USCIS I-765 Instructions for more details.
- Recent passport size (2” x 2”) color photo(s). Online applicants only need one photo to upload. Applicants mailing documents will need two photos, and should write their name & I-94 number LIGHTLY in pencil on back of each.
- $410 Payment:
- Online applicants may pay by credit card. The last step after payment information is submission, so be careful not to submit before you're ready!
- Mailed applications should include a check or money order made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (from a U.S. bank account).
- Alternatively, if you prefer to mail and pay by credit card, please fill out Form G-1450 in lieu of a check or money order. Please double-check all numbers and don’t forget to sign your form; we've seen quite a few rejected applications as a result of mistakes on this form.
- (For paper application only) Form G-1145. For email and/or text message notifications about updates to your application.
- Complete, signed Form I-765. (See "Tips for I-765" tab for more help.)
- Online applicants fill this out by clicking the "File Online" button in the linked page and creating an account with USCIS online. In the "review" section of the application there is a small link titled "view draft snapshot" that shows a preview PDF of what your I-765 would look like in paper copy.
- Online applicants will upload all supporting documents via the appropriate pages on the USCIS application website.
- Copies of all your past & current I-20s that show work authorization (prior CPT or OPT, plus the new I-20 with OPT recommendation from ISSO).
- Copies of any documentation about previous status, if applicable. If you applied for a Change of Status to F-1 within the United States, include notification forms (this is uncommon). Please note: if you visited the US as a tourist and left before coming in as a student, you DO NOT need to include documentation about these types of travel.
- Copy of prior EAD(s) (Employment Authorization Document) from other institutions or education levels, if applicable.
- Copy of your current passport's photo page.
- Copy of most recent F-1 entry visa (F-1 visa may be expired)(optional).
- Your most recent I-94 arrival record.
If you are applying online, everything can be submitted in your online application portal. However, if you are using a paper application, you will need to mail your physical packet to USCIS. The most updated mailing address can be found on the USCIS website, under Foreign Students, and you are looking at categories (c)(3)(B) for Post-Completion OPT, or (c)(3)(C) for STEM OPT. If you have questions, please contact Dean Caitlin or Claire.
- If you need extra space for any field, use space in Part 6: Additional Information.
- For paper applications: USCIS instructions state that all questions on their forms must be fully and accurately answered. If a question does not apply to you, type or print "N/A" or "none", unless otherwise directed.
- US Mailing Address: If you do not have a U.S. address that will be consistent after graduation, feel free to use the ISSO as your US mailing address:
- In Care of Name: Smith College Intl Student Office
- Street Number and Name: 5 Chapin Drive
- City or Town: Northampton
- State: MA
- ZIP Code: 01063
- For paper applications: If you answer "No" on 14, you do not need to fill in questions 15 - 17.
- Travel document: For use only for those who are unable to obtain a passport.
- Arrival information: Information should match printed I-94 and travel history record. If it does not, please contact ISSO.
- SEVIS ID: Provide all previously used SEVIS ID numbers. If you have had more than one SEVIS ID, "additional information" sheet (page 7) can be used to list prior records.
- Relevant eligibility categories: Post-Completion OPT: (c)(3)(B)Pre-Completion OPT: (c)(3)(A)
- Instructions specify that those applying for Post-Completion OPT should list all previously used CPT or OPT, using Additional Information section on Page 7. Relevant information includes: Part-time or Full-time CPT, Dates used, and level of education.
- For paper applications: Sign in BLACK pen under “Applicant’s Signature,” and make sure to stay within the white space! Scanned signatures are also acceptable, but typewritten font signatures are not. (For online applicants: Submission functions in lieu of a signature.)
OPT Events & Information Sessions
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