STEP 1: Determine Your Program Completion Date. ISP will shorten your I-20 program date to match this completion date.
- PhD: Your program completion date is as early as your defense date or as late as the end of the academic term in which you defend.
- Master's: If you will graduate in June, after 3 academic terms, your program completion date is the same as Caltech's Commencement date. If you will extend your program so that you will complete after 4 academic terms, it is the end of Fall term.
- Bachelor's: If you are graduating in June, your program completion date is the same as Caltech's Commencement date. If you will extend your program so that you will complete after Fall or Winter term, your program completion date will be the end of the academic term in which you last enrolled.
STEP 2: Determine Your OPT Start Date The OPT Start Date is the date you want your period of post-completion work authorization to begin.
- Must be after your program completion date but no more than 60 days after your program completion date
- Cannot be changed after the OPT application has been mailed
- USCIS-approved OPT Start Date may differ from the requested date, due to USCIS processing times
- USCIS may take 3 - 4 months to process an OPT application (sometimes more)
- Absolutely no employment of any kind during any gap between your program completion date and OPT Start Date. This includes being paid by Caltech as a student.
STEP 3: Email ISP to Request the OPT I-20 Provide the following information:
- Program Completion Date
- OPT Start Date
- Non-Caltech email address
- Job Information (Optional): A job offer is not required to apply for OPT. However, if you do have a job offer, include the following in your email to ISP:
- Employer Name
- Employer Address for the employment site where you would report if working in person
- Job Start Date
- Job Description: 1 - 2 sentences to describe how the job will be directly related to your major field of study
STEP 4: ISP Issues the OPT I-20
- ISP will issue, electronically sign, and send via email your OPT I-20 with the information you provided from Step 3.
- You must print, sign and date the OPT I-20 at the bottom of page 1, above your name, before mailing your application to USCIS.
STEP 5: Determine How You Will Apply - Online or by Mail
Apply Online: Prepare and Upload Your OPT Application with Supporting Documents
The option to file Form I-765 online is only available to F-1 students filing Form I-765 for OPT and STEM OPT. Online filing allows applicants to submit forms electronically, check the status of their case anytime from anywhere, and receive notices from USCIS online instead of waiting for them in the mail. To file these forms online, individuals must first create a USCIS online account at myaccount.uscis.gov. This free account allows them to:
- Submit forms
- Pay application filing fee
- Track case status
- Communicate with USCIS through a secure inbox
- Respond to Requests for Evidence
Apply by Mail: Assemble and Mail Your OPT Application with Supporting Documents
USCIS continues to accept the latest paper version of these forms by mail. Applicant is responsible for using the latest paper version and paying current application filing fee, per USCIS website.
- Application filing fee: Personal check from a U.S. bank, payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" (money order or credit card payment not recommended). Review the USCIS website for current fees and procedures.
- Two recent and identical U.S.-style passport ID photos. Photos must not have been used for your passport or previous U.S. visa. Photos should have been taken within the last 30 days.
- Printout of electronic I-94
- Copy of F-1 visa (valid or expired). Canadian citizens exempt from visa requirement.
- Copy of valid passport ID page.
- Copy of any previous EAD (Employment Authorization Document) and copy of any corresponding OPT I-20 (if applicable).
- Complete and print USCIS Form G-1145 to request a text message and/or email be sent to you when USCIS accepts your OPT application. (optional but strongly recommended). Mail Form G-1145 along with your OPT application.
- Complete and print Form I-765 via fillable PDF or hand-write in black ink. IMPORTANT: Carefully follow ISP's "How to Complete Form I-765" on the tab above.
- Mail Form I-765, OPT I-20, and all other supporting documentation to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox address, based on the mailing address you entered on Form I-765. Carefully review mailing instructions for USPS vs courier services. We recommend using trackable mail via courier service.
IMPORTANT: Be Careful of Application Timeline & Mailing
The OPT application
- cannot be received by USCIS more than 90 days prior to the program completion dated (I-20 end date, page 1)
- must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date ISP issued the OPT I-20
- must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date YOU signed Form I-765
- must be received by USCIS within 60 days after your academic completion date
Your application will be rejected if it does not meet these filing requirements.
STEP 1: Download the current version Form I-765 only from the USCIS website:
STEP 2: Decide how you will complete Form I-765
- Use the fillable PDF to type and print your responses. Some fields are not fillable; it is fine to both type and hand-write on the form.
- Print the paper form and complete and sign using BLACK ink pen
STEP 3: Before You Begin
If a question does not apply to you, type or print N/A or NONE. If writing on Form I-765 use only black ink.
STEP 4: Complete Form I-765 using the instructions provided below. Form I-765 is divided into 6 different parts.
Part 1 (Reason for Applying)
- Mark the box (1.a.) for "Initial permission to accept employment."
Part 2 (Information About You)
- Your Full Legal Name: Enter your legal name as it appears in the Machine Readable Zone of your passport. This should also match your I-20.
Part 2 (Other Names Used)
- Box 2.a - 2.c. List any other names, or spellings of your name, that have been used in the past
Part 2 (Your U.S. Mailing Address)
- You may use the ISP address to prevent lost documents. ISP will email you upon receipt of documents.
1200 E California Blvd, Ste. 250-86
Pasadena, CA 91125
- Enter your current U.S. residential address in the U.S. physical address section.
- USCIS will NOT forward mail. Be sure you enter a reliable U.S. Mailing Address that can receive mail 3 - 5 months into the future.
- After you submit your OPT application by mail, we do NOT recommend that you update your U.S. address in SEVIS or with USPS until after the EAD is in your hands. You must still notify ISP within 10 days of any move so that we can record it, but a change of address directly in SEVIS or with USPS could cause delays or even non-delivery of your EAD.
Part 2 (Other Information)
- #8-9: you do NOT likely have an Alien Registration Number or USCIS online account
- #12: Mark "Yes" ONLY if you previously filed Form I-765
- #13.a. Mark "Yes" if you already have a Social Security Number
- #14: Check "No" if you already hold an SSN, then skip to Item #18.
Part 2 (Your Country or Countries of Citizenship or Nationality)
- #18: List your citizenship
- #19 -20: Indicate your place and date of birth
Part 2 (Information About Your Last Arrival in the United States)
- #21.a. Admission (I-94) Record Number: Download and print your I-94 from the I-94 Official Retrieval Website. Use your I-94 to complete items #21.a., #22, and #23.
#26. SEVIS Number is found on the top left portion, marked SEVIS ID.
Part 2 (Information About Your Eligibility Category)
- #27. Enter (c) (3) (B) as the code for applying for the initial 12 months of OPT.
- #28 - #31.b can remain empty as they do not apply to OPT
Part 3 (Applicant's Statement, Contact Info, Declaration and Signature)
- #1.a. - #6: Complete with your appropriate information
- #7.a. READ CAREFULLY. Print the completed Form I-765. Then, write small. Your signature MUST fit inside the black signature box. Your signature CANNOT touch or cross the black signature box. Use only BLACK ink. Digital signatures are NOT permitted.
Part 4 (Interpreter's Contact Information, Certification, and Signature)
- #1.a. Enter "NONE"
- #1.b. - #7.b can remain empty
Part 5 (Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of the Person Preparing this Application, If Other Than the Applicant)
- #1.a. Enter "NONE"
- #1.b. - #8.b can remain empty
Part 6 (Additional Information)
- #1.a - 1.c: Write your names as they appear in the other sections you completed on Form I-765
- #2-#3c: Remain empty
Part 6 (Additional Information)
- #3d: List any previous SEVIS ID numbers used that are different from your current SEVIS ID number. If not applicable, write "No previous SEVIS ID number used." (You may have been issued a different SEVIS ID number if you took a leave from Caltech or attended a different school in the United States.)
- #3d: List any CPT you used while a student at Caltech, or enter "No CPT used." CPT reference.
- #3d: List any dates and degree level of any previous OPT used, or enter "No previous OPT."
EXAMPLE for #3d:
- No other SEVIS ID number used (or) SEVIS ID Nxxxxxxxxxx previously used
- No CPT used (or) Full-Time CPT used: start date - end date
- No previous OPT (or) OPT used: start date - end date at BS degree level
NOTE: Part 6 is required. Do NOT leave empty.