How Long Does It Take to Get an OPT Card?

Updated on March 6, 2024

At a Glance

  • OPT allows graduates to gain practical experience in the U.S. related to their field of study.
  • To apply, students need a DSO recommendation letter, fill out Form I-765, and submit it to USCIS with the required fee and documents.
  • The OPT card (EAD) serves as proof of employment permission for F-1 visa students.
  • OPT duration varies based on the degree program and field of study, with processing time typically up to 30 days.

Many immigrants show a willingness to work in the United States as they require money to get by. However, those applying for a visa or a green card can not start working until their application is accepted, which may take a couple of months or even longer. In the meantime, the applicant is stuck, unable to work until they can obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or even Form I-765.

What Is an OPT Card?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) permits graduates to get vital hands-on experience while also allowing them to make use of their skills and training in the United States. Most overseas grads would have little option but to leave the United States if OPT were unavailable. It is essential to preserve OPT for overseas graduates to attract, educate, and retain brilliant people from all around the globe.

OPT is a necessary but insufficient bridge that allows graduates to improve their talents and create relationships with possible employers while deciding on their immigration choices. It may not offer a clear road to citizenship, but it provides them with the time and expertise they need to manage the possibilities at hand.

Applying for OPT

  • To begin with, request that your designated school official (DSO) send your OPT recommendation letter by approving your Form I-20. Make the necessary notations in the SEVIS database.
  • Fill out Form I-765 and submit it to the USCIS together with the requisite fee and relevant documents.
  • The USCIS has to accept your application within 30 days of receiving your signed Form I-20.

What Is Form I-765?

Form I-765 is a request for an EAD, which is also known as a work permit. The EAD serves as legal proof of employment permission. If you obtain an EAD, you will be required to display it to prospective employers when looking for work.

How to Apply for Form I-765

Generally, work permit applicants file Form I-765 at the same time as their citizenship application or visa application, allowing them to work while their application is being reviewed. You can fill out Form I-765 and attach it to your green card application packet, along with two passport-sized pictures.

If you are filing your Form I-765 after you have completed your green card program, include a note with a copy of the green card program receipt notification that you have received from the USCIS.

I-765 Required Documents

Along with your I-765, you must provide the following documents:

  • Two passport photographs
  • A copy of your United States visa
  • A copy of your passport’s picture page
  • A record of your I-94 travel history

Form I-765 Filing Fee

The current price for filing a Form I-765 for an OPT EAD is $410. You should either include a check or money order for this amount with your I-765 application.

Who Needs an OPT Card?

OPT permits overseas students who are enrolled in or have graduated from a U.S. university or college to keep their F-1 student status while working for a U.S. company in their area of study. Students in any discipline can earn up to a year of “post-completion” OPT, and those with a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) can earn a two-year STEM extension.

Graduates use their degree in a real-life situation with OPT, getting significant job experience and honing their talents in the United States. As fresh graduates improve their capabilities and start to define their future paths, this job experience adds to their skillset.

Most OPT registrants have bachelor’s or master’s degrees in technology, engineering, or business, and more than 50% have a master’s degree.

How Long Does It Take to Get an OPT Card?

According to the USCIS, the processing period for an OPT EAD card could last up to 30 days from the time of acceptance. Nevertheless, a majority of cards arrive within 7–10 days. An OPT application is expected to take 90–120 days in total. It could be helpful to open an account with the USCIS to check the status of your application.

OPT Application Process

  • Send in your Form I-765 OPT application to the USCIS.
  • You should get notification of submission through SMS or email when the USCIS receives the I-765. This contains a receipt number that you can use to verify the progress of your OPT online.
  • You will receive an email with an I-797 receipt notification verifying the date of receipt and your receipt number.
  • The USCIS will also physically mail you an I-797 Notice of Approval letter and an EAD card.

What to Do if Your OPT Card Processing Time Is Taking Too Long

The U.S. government does not permit expediting, and if it does, it does so under strict conditions.

If there has been a delay in your application for more than 90 days from the day the government received it, we recommend that you take the following steps:

  • Log into the USCIS website to check the progress of your application.
  • By registering a case inquiry with the USCIS, you can inform them that your application is taking longer than usual to process.
  • There is also the option of contacting the USCIS Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 to inquire about the processing of your application. When you call them, you will need to provide them with your receipt number.

Can OPT Card Processing Time Be Reduced?

As mentioned earlier, the USCIS does not permit registrants to pay for accelerated processing or a promise of adjudication by a specific date. Instead, the USCIS accepts requests for expedited processing of timely-filed petitions that meet certain stringent conditions.

Students can use the guidelines on the USCIS website to see if they fit the criteria to submit an accelerated processing request. Your DSO is not involved in the filing of any USCIS applications. At most, some DSOs may contact the USCIS on your behalf to inquire about the expedited processing request.

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Although the method of applying for and acquiring work permission may look overwhelming, this article is aimed at making the journey as simple as possible. Register for your OPT EAD today and pave the way for a brighter tomorrow!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is OPT and Who is Eligible?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a program that allows international students with F-1 visa status in the U.S. to work in their field of study for up to 12 months after completing their academic program. Students in STEM fields may be eligible for a 24-month extension.

How Long Does It Take to Get an OPT Card (EAD)?

The processing time for an OPT card, officially known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), varies. As of my last update, it typically takes anywhere from 2 to 5 months, but this can fluctuate based on USCIS processing times.

When Should I Apply for OPT?

You should apply for OPT up to 90 days before your program end date and no later than 60 days after your program end date. It’s recommended to apply early within this window to avoid delays in employment start dates.

What Documents Are Required for OPT Application?

Required documents for an OPT application include a completed Form I-765, a copy of your passport, two passport-style photos, a copy of your I-94 record, a copy of your previous EAD (if applicable), and a check or money order for the filing fee.

Can I Work While My OPT Application is Being Processed?

You cannot legally work until you receive your EAD and your OPT start date has begun. Working without authorization can jeopardize your F-1 status.

How Do I Check the Status of My OPT Application?

You can check the status of your OPT application by visiting the USCIS website and entering your receipt number from the Notice of Action (Form I-797C) provided after filing your application.

What Happens if My OPT Application is Denied?

If your OPT application is denied, you should consult with your school’s international student office or an immigration attorney to understand your options, which may include reapplying or changing your visa status.

Can I Travel Internationally While My OPT Application is Pending?

Traveling internationally while your OPT application is pending can be risky. If you must travel, consult with your international student advisor to understand the risks and necessary documentation.

How Can I Extend My OPT Period?

STEM students can apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension. This requires working for an employer enrolled in the E-Verify program and submitting a new Form I-765 before the current OPT expires.

Does OPT Status Affect My Chances of Getting an H1B Visa?

Participation in OPT does not directly affect your chances of getting an H1B visa, but the experience gained can make you a more attractive candidate to employers who might sponsor your H1B petition.

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