Optional Internship | Office of International Students and Scholars (2023)

OPT request and other resources

general description

All eligible F-1 students must receive aOPT Recommendation I-20of thatBEFORESubmit an online OPT application to USCIS.

Optional Post-Completion Practical Training (OPT) is a 12-month work permit or practical training. OPT is an opportunity for F-1 students to use what they have learned in the classroom and apply their knowledge in a work environment. Therefore, all work must be directly related to the level of the student and the main field of study. Generally, these work experiences are off campus or for non-student positions at ISU.

students than aSTEM designated as primaryare eligible for a 24-month extension and apply for the STEM renewal during the first year of the OPT. Read more in theOPT STEM Extension FAQ Page.

Proceso OPT

  1. Complete the Optional Practical Training (OPT) Checklist at Cystart
    • Complete the OPT Workshop: Modules 1-4
    • Submit the I-20 Optional Practical Training Recommendation electronic form at Cystart to receive an I-20 recommendation from OPT
  2. Receive an email from ISSO to pick up OPT's I-20 recommendation
  3. Collect OPT Application Documents
    • To useOnline OPT Application Guideto create an OPT request online
  4. Examination of the OPT application by ISSO (recommended)
  5. Submit the OPT application online atmi USCIS
  6. Receive notification of receipt
  7. Wait for USCIS to process the application, time may vary
  8. EAD card received by mail
  9. Do not begin work until you have received the EAD card and have reached the employment start date on the EAD.
  10. Use EAD to complete I-9 with employer
  11. report employment

Eligibility and Application Calendar


In general, F-1 students are eligible for OPT after spending one academic year in F-1 status. Depending on the course, students are eligible for OPT upon completion of all course work. keep reading for more detailsopt-in permission.


Students may apply for OPT up to 90 days before, but no later than 60 days after the completion of the program.

Program End Date

Determining Your Program End Date

If you are applying for OPT, your I-20 program end date may be shortened to a new program end date. The new I-20 completion date is particularly important when applying for OPT, as it will determine the timeframe for applying for OPT.

  • Students:
    • Completion date: last day of the semester in which the final courses of the degree were completed
  • Graduate students in single-course programs:
    • Completion date: last day of the semester in which the final courses of the degree were completed
  • Graduates with a creative component, thesis or dissertation:
    • There are several options for selecting a program end date:
      • Earlier: Last day of the semester in which the final POS coursework is completed (excluding research paper)
      • Last day of any semester between POS graduation and the last day of the semester in which you defend yourself
      • Last scheduled oral defense appointment at Accessplus
      • At the latest: Last day of the semester in which you defend yourself
        • If defended in the meantime, the latest program end date is the end date of the previous semester.
          • For example, if you are advocating between the end of the spring semester and the beginning of the summer semester, your program end date will be the last day of the spring semester.
Campus Employment Impact

On-campus employment, including research assistants, must end no later than your program end date. Your I-9 work permit expires on the end date of the designated program.

For example, graduate students who choose their defense date as their program end date will have their I-20 program end date and I-9 work permit reduced to the scheduled defense date. All work on campus must end on your defense date.

Optional checklist for hands-on training

Before applying to USCIS, students must first work with ISSO to request an OPT I-20 recommendation. To begin applying for an OPT I-20 recommendation, students must complete the optional on-the-job training checklist atCyStart. Read more in the following steps:

Paso 1: Taller OPT

The online OPT workshop forms the beginning of the optional internship checklist. The OPT workshop is a training that explains what OPT is and how to apply it, consisting of various modules and tests. A score of 100% is required to proceed with the OPT application process. The OPT workshop is virtual and can be done online at any time.

Students must complete the OPT workshop before applying for the ISSO OPT Recommendation I-20.

Step 2: I-20 Application for OPT Recommendation

Application Hours

Students may request their OPT I-20 recommendation up to 100 days before the program end date, but no later than 45 days after the date all completion requirements have been met, to allow time for ISSO processing.

inquiry form

To apply for the OPT I-20 Recommendation, complete the OPT I-20 Recommendation Request Form found on the Optional Practical Training ChecklistCystartOnce submitted, the form will be emailed to your academic advisor/faculty for review.

Choose an OPT start date

Students can choose any day within their 60-day grace period after completing their program as their OPT start date. Learn more about choosing aOPT Start date.

processing time

ISSO cannot begin processing your OPT I-20 recommendation request until we receive feedback from your student/faculty advisor. The ISSO may take up to 10 business days to process the OPT Recommendation I-20 application.

Step 3: Verification of the OPT request

Gather OPT Application Materials

Upon receipt of an OPT I-20 recommendation from ISSO, request that ISSO review your OPT application. Gather the required application documents described in theOPT Checklistto prepare your application.

OPT Request Review

Once you have received your OPT I-20 recommendation and have collected all of your OPT application materials, you can have your OPT application reviewed by an international student advisor. Submit the electronic OPT application online verification form at Cystart. Upload scanned PDF files of all OPT application documents to the electronic form. Once submitted, your OPT application will be reviewed within 1-2 business days.

Nach ISO Review

After reviewing your OPT request, comments and next steps will be sent to your ISU email address. Review all comments and make any necessary changes. Please review the completed OPT application to ensure the information is correct, include signatures, and have a signed I-20 within 30 days of receipt of the application by USCIS.

Step 4: Submit your application to USCIS

Submit the OPT application online viami USCIS.For more information on how to submit your OPT application online, visit theUSCIS Tips page for submitting forms online.

pending request

Acknowledgment of receipt

Students will receive their acknowledgment upon submitting the OPT application in myUSCIS. Additionally, all students will receive an I-797 acknowledgment by mail to the mailing address provided on their OPT application. If the receipt notice contains an error, please contactisso@iastate.eduAsk for help.

Change of mailing address

If you move while your OPT application is pending and you need to update the mailing address on your OPT application, you must update your address with USCIS by submitting aRequest for change of addresswith USCIS. Please note that it is important to submit the form as soon as you move, as updating your address with the USCIS change of address application is not reliable.

USCIS processing

look at yoursUSCIS Case Statusentering the ticket number that you will find on your ticket. The online case status system will show you if your application is pending, approved, EAD card sent, etc.

USCIS can take up to 90 days to process OPT requests, although processing times vary from month to month. Once approved, students generally receive their EAD within 10 days. However, it may take up to 30 days for you to receive the EAD card.

If you have chosen to send your EAD card to ISSO, we will notify you by email when the card is ready to be picked up or shipped.

Withdraw OPT request

If you need to withdraw your OPT application, please contact ISSO immediately atisso@iastate.edu. The request to withdraw the OPT application must be made before USCIS will process your application. Students will not receive a refund of the registration fee.

late graduation

In the event that you do not meet the degree requirements after applying for OPT, action may be required depending on the situation. Consider the following scenarios:

  • Undergraduate and Graduate Students in Course-Only Programs: Action must be taken prior to program end date per OPT I-20 recommendation. Students should contact an ISSOat immediatelyisso@iastate.edu.
  • PhD students with a creative component, thesis or dissertation can:
    • Select to continue with the OPT request. No action required.
    • Choose not to proceed with the OPT request. Action must be taken prior to the program end date per OPT recommendation I-20. Contact ISSOatisso@iastate.edu.

While OPT

Employment at OPT

During the OPT, any employment must be directly related to your specialization and level of study. Employment during OPT is flexible. keep reading for more detailsskilled employment.

    Notification of Skilled Employment

    Once your OPT application has been approved, SEVP will send you an email to access the SEVP portal. Read more about the SEVP portal atStudy in the States-Website.

    Students must update their residential address and employment information within 10 days of any change. Students can update address and employment information on the SEVP portal. Students must also update their address in Accessplus.

    keep reading for more detailsOPT reporting requirements.

    Unemployment in OPT

    You cannot remain unemployed for more than 90 days from the start date on your EAD card. Before you exceed 90 days of unemployment, you must do one of the following:

    • Get started with a qualified OPT job
    • Transfer to another US school,
    • Request for change of educational levelat ISU and get I-20,
    • Request status changewith USCIS, if eligible, or
    • leave the united states

    Classes during OPT

    OPT automatically ends when a student begins study at a different education level or when a student transfers to a different institution. Contactisso@iastate.eduto discuss whether your future registration plans will affect your OPT authorization.

    Travel and OPT

    While traveling with OPT, you may travel outside of the United States. However, traveling with OPT carries some risks. keep reading for more detailsRequirements when traveling outside the United States

    Plan para STEM OPT

    Students with a STEM-designated CIP code and qualifying employment may request a 24-month OPT extension (STEM OPT). Students may apply for STEM OPT up to 90 days before their EAD card end date, but no later than their EAD card end date. For more information, seeOptional internship STEM extension.

    after opting

    For students who maintained status during OPT and reached the OPT end date, they have a 60-day grace period during which they can:

    • Transfer to another US school,
    • Request for change of educational levelat ISU and get I-20,
    • Request status changewith USCIS, if eligible, or
    • leave the united states
    Disclaimer: These FAQs are for general information and guidance. As this information may quickly become out of date or may not apply to your situation, please contact an international student advisor in the Office of International Students and Scholars with your individual questions.
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