Optional Practical Training (OPT) is authorization for employment in your field of study either before or after completion of a degree. Most F-1 students participate in Post-Completion OPT after graduation. Pre-Completion OPT is rarely used, and if you are interested in this option, make an appointment with an Immigration Coordinator to learn more. The information on this page is specific to Post-Completion OPT. 

OPT Workshop and Virtual Question and Answer Sessions

View the OPT Workshop for information about OPT and the steps of how to apply. The workshop includes explanations of requirements, timelines, the application process, and more! The Immigration Coordinators also host virtual drop-in OPT question-and-answer sessions each semester which are advertised through email

OPT Basics

Post-Completion OPT Overview
  • OPT is not a new immigration status, it is a work authorization that is available to eligible F-1 students. 
  • Students must meet eligibility to receive an OPT-Recommended I-20 from ISSS before applying to USCIS for OPT; refer to the steps to apply below. 
  • The duration of OPT is 12-months and starts after the program completion date. 
Eligibility for Post-Completion OPT
  • Be on active F-1 status. 
  • Have been a full-time student for at least one academic year (one Fall and one Spring semester). 
  • Have NOT been authorized for 12 months or more full-time CPT. 
  • Have NOT been authorized for OPT at the same education level before. 
  • Students do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. 
Post-Completion OPT Timeline 
  • The application window for OPT is up to 90 days prior to the program completion date and up to 60 days after the program completion date. 
  • The requested OPT start date must be within 60 days from the program completion date. 
  • Students must complete their application to USCIS within 30 days from the issuance of the OPT Recommended I-20. 
  • Students are allowed a total of 90 unemployment days, starting from the start date listed on the EAD. 

OPT Application

  1. View OPT Workshop

    View the OPT Workshop for information about OPT and the steps of how to apply.

  2. Request OPT I-20

    Students need to request the OPT Recommended I-20 through their ISSS Connect portal under the Documents & Requests tab.

    • Students will send an electronic Approver Form to their academic/faculty advisor to verify their intended program completion term.
    • The request will not be submitted to ISSS until the approver has completed the Approver Form.
    • ISSS must enter a recommendation for OPT in SEVIS and issue a new I-20 for the student’s application to USCIS.
    • Normal processing time for ISSS to issue the OPT-recommended I-20 is 7-10 business days from submission.
  3. Receive the I-20 and make an appointment

    After receiving the OPT recommended I-20, the student will make an appointment with an Immigration Coordinator to review their OPT application to USCIS.

  4. Apply to USCIS

    Students will then submit their application online to USCIS (a mail option is also available, if needed).

    DO NOT apply for OPT without the OPT-recommended I-20. 

  5. Submit a Copy of your EAD Card

    Once you have received your EAD card for your OPT authorization, you must submit a copy of the card into the “OPT/STEM OPT EAD Card Submission” request in the DOCUMENTS & REQUESTS tab of your ISSS Connect Portal. 

Maintaining your Status while on OPT


Students who receive post-completion OPT may be unemployed for up to 90 days. 

Required Reporting 

To complete the required reporting, students must log in to the ISSS Connect portal and find the appropriate report record in the Documents & Requests tab.  

Students are required to report the following qualifying events within 10 days of the event:

  • Receipt of EAD Card 
  • New Employment 
  • Completion of a Job 
  • Legal Name Change 
  • Address Changes 
    • All address changes must be made by logging into PAWS and updating the “Mailing” address. This information will be pulled into ISSS Connect and ISSS will update addresses directly. 
    • A student’s U.S. address must be listed in PAWS as “Mailing” address. 
    • A student’s home country address must always be listed in PAWS as “Home” address. 
International Travel

Travel while your OPT application is pending is not recommended; make an appointment with an Immigration Coordinator to discuss this if you have travel plans.

Travel endorsement signatures for students on OPT are valid for 6-months from the date signed.

Students on OPT should travel with:

  • Updated I-20 with travel endorsement that lists the OPT approval and employment 
  • OPT EAD card 
  • Employment offer letter 
  • Valid passport 
  • Valid F-1 visa 
UWM Credential Access

Students on OPT who have lost access to their UWM credentials (login and password) must work with the UWM Help Desk to reinstate their access.