As an international student seeking OPT in the US, you will need an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Once you are approved and receive your EAD, you will be able to legally work in the US, and prove such to potential employers.
To obtain an EAD, you must complete “form I-765,” also known as the “Application for Employment Authorization.” United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses form I-765 to determine a foreign worker’s eligibility for a work permit in the US. If you are hoping to work while in school as an international student, or after graduation, you will need to complete form I-765.
Who can file form I-765?
There are several categories under which a form I-765 can be filed, but the categories of international students that can file form-I765 include:
- F-1 students seeking Pre-Completion or Post-Completion OPT.
- F-1 students seeking a STEM OPT 24-month extension.
- F-1 students who are offered off-campus employment, while being sponsored from a qualifying international organization.
- F-1 students seeking off-campus employment due to unforeseen economic hardship.
- M-1 students seeking Post-Completion OPT after completing education.
Key components of form I-765
Depending on the category you are filing the form under, it’s important to follow the specific instructions given by USCIS in filling out form I-765. The form itself is fairly straightforward and has six different parts:
- Reason for Application: Here you will indicate your reason for applying (e.g. applying for OPT for the first time, applying for STEM OPT extension, etc.)
- Identification Information: In addition to biographical identification information (name, gender, address, etc.), you will also specify the category code you are filing the form under (e.g. F-1 students seeking pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT, STEM OPT, etc.)
- Statement and Signature: You will sign and date the form in this section, as well as indicate if you received assistance from an interpreter.
- Interpreter’s Contact Information: If applicable, you will include your interpreter’s contact information here.
- Statement and Signature of Person Who Prepared Forms: If you received assistance in the form of a preparer (such as a lawyer, your interpreters, etc.), they will have to sign and date here.
- Additional Information: If there are any parts of the form you wish to expand on, things you feel are important to mention, or you simply run out of space with any previous answers, you can provide any additional information here.
How to file form I-765?
Form I-765 can be filed online, via the USCIS portal, or through mail, via paper, though it’s not recommended. Depending on your circumstances, you may have to include specific documents. However, international students should be prepared to submit the following:
- 2×2 “passport style” photo of yourself
- A copy of form I-94 (your travel history in and out of the US)
- A copy of your passport
- A copy of form I-20 with the employment page completed by the designated school official (DSO) certifying your eligibility for employment.
- A copy of your college degree (if applying under STEM OPT extension)
- All previous SEVIS receipt numbers, and evidence of any previous CPT or OPT
Once you complete all six parts of form I-765, and prepare any required documentation based on your category, you are ready to file. F-1 students are eligible to file the form online through the USCIS portal. There is a processing fee of $410, payable to USCIS when you file the form. If filing online, you can pay the fee with a credit card.
Form I-765 is a crucial part of obtaining work authorization in the US as an international student. Without your EAD, you can’t obtain work at any employer in the US. It is very important to ensure that the parts of your application are completed accurately, as it is difficult to change answers on your form I-765 after it is submitted. If you are ever unsure about certain parts of your application or need assistance, seek professional guidance or help from your school’s international students office.