OPT F-1 visa renewal guide- Step-by-Step process

Hi RedBustoUS community,

I am trying to find a step-by-step guide on F-1 visa renewal under OPT. I have read posts out here and elsewhere in the worldwide web universe, that gives an idea of the process but could not find one that provides a step-by-step guide of the process, including what to answer in some questionnaires, do’s and don’ts, etc.
I just graduated and my F-1 visa got expired 6 months ago. Applied for OPT EAD, which got approved few days ago and should be here in the mail any day now. I am planning to go home (India) in the next few weeks and, therefore, have started the work to initiate the F1- visa under OPT renewal process. Below is what I think is the step-by-step process, and I am not completely certain. Hence, I am reaching out here to get thoughts and recommendations from the community.

  1. Fill out DS-160. What are some of the tricky questions and advise on dos and don’ts
  2. Login or create an account on cgifederal.secure.force.com and get an appointment for interview or find out dropbox eligibility (which means one can avoid in-person interview and just drop the required docs in one of the dropbox sites). However, what’s not clear is if one can do this before submitting their DS-160.
  3. Get the following list of docs with you for document drop-off to one of the dropbox sites. if I am missing anything then please feel free to add.
    - DS-160 confirmation
    - Dropbox eligibility confirmation
    - valid EAD card
    - valid passport
    - Valid I-20 with OPT dates signed
    - Offer letter from the current employer or * Future employer*- Any good format for an offer letter?
    - Anything else?

Does this look good?
Also, I will be in India from mid-August to end of Sep but will be employed in the same university I graduated from and get paid while I am in India until the end of Sep (However, on paper the appointment is for 9 months). After arrival I will be going to a different university for a postdoc position. I have the offer letter and have already accepted the offer. Therefore, I am not sure which offer letter- from my current university or the one I am joining on arrival I should submit for my visa renewal.

If the questions raised above could be answered then I think I will be relieved to know that I am doing everything correctly and not going to screw up from my end. I am planning to share my step-by-step experience in this thread as I go and I hope it will help others. Please share your experiences and I look forward to have my doubts/questions answered from this community.


Make sure you get OPT I-20 with a valid travel endorsement signed within 6 months from your DSO.
You should also carry evidence of financial support which could be your bank balance in the US and India, any recent pay stubs etc.

You should submit the employment verification letter for your current job that you plan on rejoining after entering back to the US. You may though also carry the employment offer letter from your future employer and can present if VO ask about your long term employment plan.

You must talk to your DSO and employer before travelling so that they can help with any required documentation.

Hi Kalpesh,
Thanks a lot for your suggestions and my DSO also suggested the same. I am currently getting all documents in place for travel.

My EAD will be in my possession today and will report my OPT as well as file my DS-160. The only thing I am not clear about now is if there’s an order to filing DS-160 and signing up for Dropbox through the ‘cgifederal.secure.force.com’ website. I raised these questions in my original post. Will appreciate any insight on this too.

Thanks again.

I am guessing you are asking for the steps to apply. Below link reference H1B however the application steps are same for F1.

Thanks. this is helpful.

Hi Kalpesh,

I filed my DS-160, paid my fees but never got the option for Dropbox. Now, I have an interview scheduled for Aug 26th.
I am wondering the reason behind me not getting the dropbox option for F-1 under OPT visa renewal is due to ‘clearance received’ annotation in my F-1 visa. I will appreciate any insight on this.


Are you still in the same school for which the previous visa was issued? If yes, then the annotation on the visa might be the reason, I am not sure though.