How do I apply for Optional Practical Training?

How to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT):

1. You do not need a job offer to apply. However, once you find a qualifying job, you must notify the Immigration Advisor at UCSB International Programs by contacting them at the Help Center.

2. The earliest you can apply for OPT is 90 days before your program completion date and no later than 60 days after your program end date as indicated on your I-20.

3. You must complete this form first to initiate the OPT request process. UCSB International Program's Immigration Advisor will make a request in the government database for your work authorization. The Advisor will provide you with a new, OPT-notated I-20.

4. Once the Immigration Advisor makes the request, you must complete the Form I-765 "Application for Employment Authorization" within 30 days. The Form I-765 instructions are available on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. 

5. Gather all documents and supporting materials to submit (found under the Required Documentation section of the Form I-765 instructions) with the application for employment authorization, which will include the following:

  • A copy of Form I-94 (printed from
  • A copy of a valid passport (copy of the photo page)
  • A visa, if applicable (photocopy of the visa page)
  • A photocopy of your OPT-notated I-20 (don't forget to sign it!)
  • Photocopies of any previous Employment Authorization Documents (EAD)
  • Two identical photographs (photograph instructions are found on the Form I-765 instructions under Required Documentation)
  • The $410 filing fee (check or money order payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

6. Schedule a meeting with your Immigration Advisor by contacting them at Help Center. We will review your application to ensure you have properly completed the Form I-765 and have all of the required supporting documents.

7. Make a photocopy of all application materials for your records.

8. File the Form I-765 and supporting documents listed in Step 5 above with the appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Center (depending on where you live).

9. In all, the OPT application generally takes between 2.5 to 3 months to issue the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that allows you to begin working on OPT. There is no way to expedite an application.

10. The Form I-765 must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date your advisor made the OPT recommendation in SEVIS (see page 1 of the printed Form I-20 for the date).

11. Lastly, final OPT decisions are made completely by the US government. UCSB International Programs is not involved in this process.

Please contact the Immigration Advisor at the UCSB Professional and Continuing Education Help Center for more information.

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