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Step 1: Confirm Your OPT Eligibility

What is OPT?

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of the F-1 student status.
  • OPT is work authorization for employment in a position in your field of study.
  • OPT is valid for up to 12 months (with a possibility of extension for STEM majors).
  • During the OPT period, you maintain F-1 student status.

When am I eligible for OPT?

Pre-Completion OPT 

Post-Completion OPT

This type of OPT is used during a students annual vacation and at other times when school is in session OR while school is in session provided that the training does not exceed 20 hours per week.

However, it is recommended that students use Curricular Practical Training (CPT) instead of Pre Completion OPT. Learn more about CPT on the ISPO webpage, at .

If you choose to pursue pre-completion OPT:

  1. You must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one academic year (3 quarters). If you have an approved Reduced Course Load (RCL) for a specific academic term, your enrollment in that term is considered to be full-time for the purposes of this OPT requirement.
  2. You must be completing a higher degree level (BA/BS, MA/MBA, PhD) within the next 90 days OR you must not have completed your degree more than 60 days in the past.
  3. You must be physically present in the U.S. at the time of application to USCIS.
  4. You must not have used more than 1 year of full-time CPT during your current degree program (part-time CPT does not count).


*NOTE: Time spent in a study abroad program may or may not count toward the academic year requirement. Please be sure you consult an ISPO Advisor to confirm your eligibility if you spent time studying abroad or spent time in another immigration status (e.g. E-2, H-4, etc…). Additionally, participating in a study abroad program in your final quarter may jeopardize your ability to apply for OPT. If you are considering a final quarter study abroad program please consult an ISPO Advisor.

What is required of my job while I am on OPT?

  • A job offer is not required when you apply for OPT. However, you must find employment within 90 days of the start date of your OPT.
  • Once you do get a job, it must be directly related to your major field of study.
  • The employment can be full time or part time (no less than 20 hours per week) and it can be paid or unpaid.
  • You can have multiple employers at one time (a total of at least 20 combined hours per week).
  • See here for resources on finding a job for OPT.

Step 2: Determine Your OPT Timeline

The application for Post-Completion OPT must be received by USCIS:

  • No earlier than 90 days before program completion.
  • No later than 60 days after your program completion.
  • No later than 30 days after the “Date Issued” on your OPT I-20.


Determine your OPT application timeline based on your graduating quarter:

  • The OPT application timeline may vary for each student.
  • Undergraduate students will generally use the last day of their final graduating quarter.
  • Graduate (Masters or PhD) students may receive a different program end date depending on enrollment or employment in their final graduating quarter. They may use whichever of the following dates is later:
    • The last day of enrollment in their final graduating quarter,  OR
    • The last date of eligible on-campus employment as outlined by GEPA, OR
    • If required to pay filing fee, date of Comprehensive Exam/Thesis Defense.
  • Upon receiving their OPT I-20 forms from ISPO, students should always review their program end date and the issue date on the OPT I-20 to determine their accurate OPT application timelines.
  • Students are responsible for determining their own timelines.
  • See general OPT application timelines for students enrolled in their final graduating quarter:


Graduating Quarter

Last Day of Quarter

(Expected Completion Date**)

Earliest Day USCIS Can Receive Application

Last Day USCIS Can Receive Application

Possible OPT Start Date to Request

Earliest Day ISPO Can Receive iPortal Request

Fall 2022 Saturday, December 10, 2022 Sunday, September 11, 2022 Tuesday, February 07, 2023 December 11, 2022 - February 07, 2023 Tuesday, August 30, 2022
Winter 2023 Saturday, March 25, 2023 Sunday, December 25, 2022 Tuesday, May 23, 2023 March 26, 2023 - May 23, 2023 Tuesday, December 13, 2022
Spring 2023 Friday, June 16, 2023 Saturday, March 18, 2023 Monday, August 14, 2023   June 17, 2023 - August 14, 2023 Monday, March 06, 2023
Summer Session I 2023 Saturday, August 05, 2023 Sunday, May 07, 2023 Tuesday, October 03, 2023 August 06, 2023 - October 03, 2023 Monday, April 24, 2023

Summer Session II 2023

Saturday, September 09, 2023

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

September 10, 2023 - November 07, 2023

Monday, May 29, 2023

Fall 2023

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

December 17, 2023 - February 13, 2024

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Winter 2024 Saturday, March 23, 2024 Sunday, December 24, 2023 Tuesday, May 21, 2024 March 24, 2024 - May 21, 2024 Friday, December 8, 2023
Spring 2024 Friday, June 14, 2024 Saturday, March 16, 2024 Monday, August 12, 2024 June 15, 2024 - August 12, 2024 Monday, March 04, 2024

Graduating Quarter

Last Day of Quarter

(Expected Completion Date*)

Earliest Day USCIS Can Receive Application

Last Day USCIS Can Receive Application

Possible OPT Start Date to Request

Earliest Day ISPO Can Receive iPortal Request

* If filing online close to any deadlines, note that USCIS operates on Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) which is 7 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (PST). Ensure all applications are complete and submitted before 4:59 PM PST of the current day in order for it to be considered as submitted on that day.

** Note for Winter graduates: If you intend to apply for H-1B in the future, it is recommended that you choose a start date of April 02 or later in order to be able to work under a Cap-Gap extension , which is the period of time between the end of the EAD card and the start of the H-1B period (October 1). To be eligible for the  Cap-Gap extension , your EAD card must expire on April 1 or later and the H-1B must be filed before the expiration of the EAD card.


Additional Guidance:

  • USCIS typically takes 90 days to adjudicate an OPT Application, but processing times fluctuate. Please visit the USCIS webpage for updated processing times.
  • Students are not eligible to work on their initial OPT more than 14 months after their program completion date.
  • USCIS will try to give you the OPT Start Date that you requested, but it is not guaranteed. If the OPT Start Date that you requested has passed, USCIS will give you future start date; USCIS will never provide you an OPT Start Date in the past. 
  • If you are currently applying for a Permanent Resident Status (Green Card), please consult your immigration attorney regarding how applying for OPT may impact other applications or benefits.

Step 3: Pay the Post-Completion OPT Administrative Processing Fee

The Post-Completion OPT Administrative Processing Fee is required for ISPO to comply with mandatory federal regulations and maintain U.S. Department of Homeland Security systems for F-1 SEVIS records while students are no longer enrolled at UC San Diego.

  • The fee is $100.00
  • An additional $3.00 credit card processing fee may apply.
  • Fees subject to change without prior notification.
  • The fee is a non-refundable except in cases where ISPO is unable to recommend the OPT due to student ineligibility.
  • Any refunds will be minus credit card service fees.
  • This fee is separate from the $410 application fee that goes to USCIS (as explained in Stage 2 ).

If you do not have a Postdoctoral Scholar offer at UC San Diego for your OPT period:

If you have accepted a Postdoctoral Scholar position at UC San Diego for your OPT period:

Step 4: Submit Your Request for an OPT I-20

Your OPT I-20 will be issued within 10 business days from your originally submitted iPortal request. You can always monitor the status of your request through iPortal. OPT Applications require a copy of an I-20 with an OPT endorsement that you can request in iPortal. Please note that you will need to upload a copy of your OPT fee payment e-mail confirmation.

Step 5: Receive Your OPT I-20

  • Your new I-20 reflecting your OPT endorsement will be issued within 10 business days.
  • You can check the status of your request anytime by logging in to iPortal and clicking on "My Requests" tab. If your application is pending with your graduate coordinator or college for more than 3 days, please reach out to them.
  • A notification email will be sent to you when your OPT I-20 is ready.
  • Review your OPT I-20 carefully for accuracy.
    • Note the OPT recommendation on page 2 of the I-20. Review the requested dates of the OPT period.
    • Note your new Program End Date. If you are working on campus, your on-campus employment authorization ends on this Program End Date, also known as your program completion date. 
  • Be sure to sign your OPT I-20 when you receive it.
  • Make note of the Date Issued next to the DSO signature on page 1. Remember that USCIS must receive your complete OPT Application no later than 30 Days from the Date Issued on Page 1 of your OPT I-20 or by the end of your 60-day grace period, whichever date is soonerotherwise your OPT Application will be immediately rejected by USCIS. This means you should not apply for your OPT I-20 from ISPO until you are ready to submit your OPT Application to USCIS.
    • If your OPT Application gets rejected/denied and you are still within your 60-day grace period when this happens, you can request a Replacement I-20 in iPortal and resubmit your OPT Appliction to USCIS with the new I-20. If you are beyond your 60-day grace period, contact ISPO.
  • Keep your previous I-20/DS-2019 for your records, do NOT throw it away, even when you received an updated document.

Didn't Receive your OPT I-20? 

USCIS must receive your OPT I-20 within the 30-day window from the date the OPT I-20 was issued. If you have not received your OPT I-20 from ISPO, then you must request a Replacement I-20 in iPortal to restart the 30-day window.


Do you have additional questions about this OPT Stage? Follow the links below to get your answers: