OPT Application Instructions

OPT Tutorial &
Application Instructions

1.Complete the OPT Tutorial & Application Guide [pdf].

Write down any questions you may have, noting the page number of the tutorial and bring your questions to see a BIO Advisor.

2.Complete the OPT I-20 Request Form.

Fill out the form online, then print it for signature by your Academic Adviser. After submitting it to the Berkeley International Office, you may return to pick up your new OPT I-20 in 3 business days.

3.Mail the application materials to USCIS.

See instructions in the OPT Application tutorial [pdf].

Online Webinars

To join an upcoming OPT live, online webinar (where you can ask questions),
see Employment Workshops.

Listen and watch a recorded OPT Tutorial webinar here.

Application Deadlines

  • The earliest you can apply is 90 days before the program "completion date."
  • The latest the USCIS can receive your application is 60 days after the program completion date.
  • OPT applications must be submitted to USCIS within 30 days of receiving the OPT I-20 from the Berkeley International Office. 

What is Your Completion Date?

For OPT purposes, this is the day you complete your final degree requirements:

  • Undergraduate Students-
    The program completion date is the last day of the semester the degree requirements are fulfilled.
  • Graduate Students-
    The program completion date is the day on which all degree requirements are fulfilled, such as filing your thesis or dissertation in the Graduate Division.  If you do not have a research component to your degree program (such as in the MBA program or other professional schools), your completion date would be the last day of final exams of the semester your degree requirements are fulfilled.

Points To Remember

  • One year of OPT is available after completing each higher level degree program.
  • A job offer is not required to apply for OPT. However, once you find a qualifying job, you must notify Berkeley International Office. See address/employer reporting instructions here.
  • More than 90 days of unemployment during OPT is a violation of F-1 status. 
  • The employment may occur anywhere in the U.S.
  • During the OPT period, a student remains in F-1 status.
  • Once USCIS receives your OPT application, it can be extremely difficult to change the employment start and end dates.
  • You can submit your application to USCIS up to 90 days before the completion date of your program or during the 60-day grace period after completion, assuming you have not departed the US during the grace period. 
  • OPT applications must be received at the USCIS within 30 days of receiving an OPT I-20 from the Berkeley International Office. 
  • Once you complete your degree, you cannot work on-campus or off-campus until you have the EAD in your possession and your selected start date has arrived.
  • No special permission is required to change employers or terminate your employment. However, you must notify
    Berkeley International Office of your unemployment and/or new employer's information at http://ssu.berkeley.edu/
  • During the period of OPT, a student continues in F-1 status, since OPT is considered to be part of the program of study.
  • The average USCIS processing time to issue the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is 90 days. However, please visit the USCIS Processing Times website for the most up to date processing times. There is no way to expedite an application.
  • OPT can only be extended beyond 12 months (for up to 17 additional months), if you meet the following three conditions:
    • OPT is based on a US Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctoral in a STEM major (Science, Technology, Engineering or
      Mathematics) at the time of application for the extension.
    • The employer is enrolled in E-Verify.
    • The OPT is currently authorized and the student is working in a job related to the field of study.
  • OPT is available both before and after completing the degree program.

A Note on Health Insurance

Students who complete a program of study are no longer eligible to purchase the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP). The Tang Center has information about insurance plans that can be purchased after graduation.

17-Month Extensions of OPT

Students who have received a U.S. Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees in a  STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields, are eligible for a one-time, 17-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 29 months). See the web pages on the 17-month Extension for more information.