Welcome to the ISSS website's comprehensive guide on Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 students. OPT provides an exciting opportunity for graduating students to gain work experience in the United States. This website will walk you through the OPT application process, OPT reporting, tracking your progress, and additional information.

Here's what you can expect in each Section of the guide:

  • Section 1: This section is a thorough guide on how to apply for OPT, including all necessary documents and more. 
  • Section 2: Here, you will find information about how to update your SEVP portal once you earn a job position.
  • Section 3: In this section, we have compiled frequently asked questions for your convenience.

ISSS Office hosts OPT in-person and online information sessions every semester. If you could not make it to the information session, please click here to watch recorded videos and/or click here to view the presentation slides

*Please check out USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) webpage for more OPT resources.

Section 1: How to apply for OPT

International students must obtain authorization for OPT (Optional Practical Training) to work after graduation. Follow the provided steps to comprehend OPT concepts and submit the application on time.

SUNY Oswego students should coordinate with the ISSS Office to review materials and acquire a new OPT-recommended Form I-20 before applying online. Allow 5-7 days for the ISSS Office to review the required documents.

1. Determine Your OPT Start Date:

When applying for OPT, YOU get to decide your start date. This is the day when you can begin working, provided that you have received your OPT approval and Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) by that date. Please note that: 

  • OPT can be applied for as early as 90 days before the graduation date.
  • OPT applications should be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after the graduation date. The earliest OPT start date that you can select is the day after your graduation date, while the latest OPT start date is 60 days after your graduation date. Since USCIS is expecting longer processing times, it is advisable to select the latest start date, unless you already have a job offer.
  • Use the Date Calculator to select your preferred start date.
  • Indicate your chosen date in the OPT Acknowledgement Form, to be submitted to the ISSS Office, You can find more information about the form in Step 2(b).
2. Complete Application Materials:

Please note that the all of following application materials must be submitted to the ISSS Office in order to receive an OPT Recommended Form I-20.

  1. OPT Acknowledgement Form: Carefully review and sign this form wherever required, as it outlines your responsibilities as an OPT applicant. 
  2. Health Insurance During OPT Form: Select one of the options on the form and sign where required.
  3. Academic Advisor Recommendation Letter for OPT: Work with your academic advisor to complete and sign this letter.
  4. OPT Photos: Get two professional photos and follow the instructions below for submission. To ensure that you have professional OPT photos ready for your online application, Print these instructions and take them to Kinney Drugs, Walmart, or another photo location. 
    *Ask the photographer if they can send you the photo image via email. If not, scan the photos to upload them to the online application. In case the online application shows an error, try taking photos with your phone. The system will notify you if they can accept the photo or not.

3. Attend a Mandatory OPT Review Meeting:

Once the review is complete and everything looks good, students will be invited to the OPT review meeting, which occurs on Thursdays at 3PM. After students complete their OPT application, ISSS staff will review the materials. At this meeting, students will receive a new Form I-20 with their OPT request.

Upon receiving the new OPT recommended Form I-20, students should print it out and sign it with a pen. Then, you need to scan the signed and OPT-authorized Form I-20 and upload it to your online I-765 application. The online application process should be continued from page 20 of the attached instructions which you can find in step 4 below.

4. Complete the Form I-765 Online:

Start the online OPT application using the USCIS e-filing system. However, DO NOT submit it until you receive the OPT I-20s from the ISSS Office (refer to page 20 of the attached instruction below).

Feel free to utilize this guide which outlines the steps included in the I-765 Form. Click here to view this step-by-step guide.

Submit your final I-765 OPT application AFTER attending the OPT review meeting. During this meeting, you will be issued the OPT recommended Form I-20.
Please note that filing cases without the new OPT Form I-20 will result in DENIAL. So, you can start completing the online application before the final review meeting, but make sure to stop before proceeding to page 20 of the instructions.

*NOTE: The application system will show you the warning message when you try to leave the CPT information blank. If you did not apply for CPT, you can move to the next step and not providing the CPT detail should not cause delays.

5. Submit the online Form I-765 application

Again, students MUST submit the online OPT application AFTER they receive the new OPT I-20. If not, their applications will be REJECTED by USCIS.

  • Remember, to submit the application to USCIS, you must be in the U.S. under F-1 status.
  • Following these steps ensures a smooth and successful OPT application process.
6. Check the status of your OPT application

After you submit your form, you can track its status through your USCIS account. Sign in to your account often to check your case status and read any important messages from USCIS. Applicants can also download the "Case Tracker for USCIS" app to track the case status:

7. I have been waiting to hear back from USCIS for a long time. What do I do?

myProgress provides applicants with access, in their online account, to personalized estimates of their wait time for major milestones on their case, including their final case decision. While estimates are based on historical patterns of cases with similar specifics, they are not a guarantee of speed, cannot take into consideration all possible unique application processing delays, and may over- or underestimate the true processing time.

To view estimated case timelines, applicants must first create a USCIS online account or log into their account and select their pending application. If they e-filed or linked one of the applicable forms to their online account using an online access code, they will see a myProgress tab for their application. The myProgress tab displays the estimated wait time until their case has a decision, along with a checkmark beside three milestones as they are completed:

  • Confirmation that the application was received;
  • Biometric services appointment (if required) has been completed; and
  • The decision on the pending case.

Applicants will still need to visit the public Check Case Processing Times webpage to determine if they are eligible to file an Outside of Normal Processing Times service request.

Section 2: I got a job! What are my next steps?

Once you earn a job position, it is YOUR Responsibility as an OPT approved-student to update your SEVP portal and report your employment. 

IMPORTANT: Students are responsible for updating the employer information on SEVP portal. When changing employers, students should edit the end date for the existing employer and add a new employer to the record. Do NOT delete the previous employer, if you would like to change employers.

How do I access my SEVP portal to update my employment?

OPT-approved students will receive the SEVP portal activation email around their OPT start date.

Please note that the email will be sent out to the email address that you provided in the OPT application. REMEMBER that the Help Desk will send you important communication regarding your OPT so it is critical for you to activate your portal account and have access to the portal.

If you have any issues with accessing the portal, please reach out to the SEVP Help Desk at 1-800-892-4829.

How do I report my employment?

OPT participants are required to report employment information includes employer name, start date, whether the employment is full-time or part-time, and employer address on SEVP portal. When changing employers, students should edit the end date for the existing employer and add new employer to record. Do NOT type the new employer information over the previous employer directly. 

Also, students will be asked to fill a text field, titled "Relation to Field of Study: Explain how this job relates to the degree that qualified you/or this OPT."

Click the Frequently Asked Questions thread if you are not sure how to discern the direct relationship between the job and the degree. 

I did not receive an activation email or I was unable to update my portal on time. What should I do?

If your OPT request has been approved but haven't received the activation email 1 week before the OPT start date, please reach out to us at isss@oswego.edu.

As you read in the OPT Acknowledgment Form, it is the OPT participants' responsibility to update the employer information to stop the unemployment clock. To learn how to update the portal, click here.

That being said, if you already passed the work start date but forgot to update the portal, please provide the following information via email and we can update the employment information for you:

  • Explain how employment is related to student's course of study
  • Employer Name
  • Job title
  • Employment start date
  • Employment end date
  • Full time/ Part time
  • Employer address

Please plan ahead as it may take 3-5 business days to receive a reply.

If you have any issues with accessing the portal, please reach out to the SEVP Help Desk at 1-800-892-4829.

3. Frequently asked questions

Here are some frequently asked questions related to the OPT application process.

If you have a question that you do not see answered on this webpage, please reach out to isss@oswego.edu. Please plan ahead as it may take 3-5 business days to receive a reply.

How can I determine the direct relationship between my job and the degree?

If you are not sure about the relationship between the job that you are interested in/offered and your degree, we suggest consulting with your academic advisor. Since your academic advisor has a deeper understanding of your curriculum, your advisor will be the best person to advise.

I would like to apply for Premium Processing

USCIS premium processing guarantees 30 calendar days of turnaround time for eligible beneficiaries by charging $1,500. In other words, within a month (30 calendar days) OPT/STEM OPT applicants will be able to confirm if USCIS:

  • issues an approval notice
  • issues a denial notice
  • issues a notice of intent to deny
  • issues a request for evidence
  • opens an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation

Students who are willing to apply for Premium Processing can file Form I-907 online. Students would need an I-765 Receipt number and a MyUSCIS account number which can be found by logging into MyUSCIS to submit the online form I-907. Premium Processing applicants do NOT need any further documentation from the ISSS office.