Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment authorization most students use to gain work experience in their field of study after graduation.
OPT is granted for a duration of 12 months (extensions are available in certain cases) per educational level. Steps for gaining and maintaining OPT authorization are:
Step 1: Complete the OPT Request Form and Submit to International Student Programs (ISP)
- With your academic advisor, complete the ISP OPT request form (PDF)
- Bring the completed form to ISP and allow 7 days for ISP to issue a new I-20 that will include the OPT recommendation.
Step 2: Gather all OPT Application Materials (to be completed while ISP is preparing your new OPT I-20)
Prepare the below items, which are required by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as part of the OPT application:
- Form G-1145 (used by students who wish to receive electronic notification that their application has been received at USCIS)
- Original Form I-765. Make sure to use the most-recent version available through USCIS. An ISP team member can offer guidance on completing the I-765.
- Check or money order for $410 payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” attached to the first page of your I-765
- There is currently a pending USCIS fee increase. Check the status of the fee increase before submission of your OPT application to USCIS.
- Two passport photos (2″x2″). Write your name on the back of the photos and paper clip them to the top of the Form I-765. Make sure the photos meet the specifications on page 13 of USCIS Instructions for Form I-765.
- Printout of your most recent I-94 Admission/Departure Record. The Department of Homeland Security can offer your most recent I-94 record.
- Photocopy of your most recent F-1 visa
- Photocopy of your passport (biographical page and/or expiration page). If your visa was stamped in your old, expired passport, send a copy of the biographical and/or expiration page of that passport as well.
- Copies of all previous I-20s
Step 3: Schedule to Have your Complete OPT Application Reviewed by ISP
After you are informed that your OPT I-20 is ready, make an appointment with Thomas Greene to review the completed OPT application. When you come for the appointment you are expected to have all of the above items (see Step 2) so that ISP can review the material that is otherwise ready to be submitted to USCIS.
Step 4: Send the complete OPT application to USCIS so that it arrives at USCIS within 30 days of ISP recommending you for OPT.
Mail copies of everything, along with a $410 application fee and two passport-sized photos. If using an NC mailing address on the I-765:
- For U.S. Postal Service (USPS):
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680
- For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517
Step 5: Wait!
It will generally take USCIS at least 90 days to process the OPT application and there is no way to expedite the process. For his reason, it is important that you apply for OPT at least three months before you hope to have the work authorization and begin your employment. You may not begin working until your OPT is approved, you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the USCIS and the dates are current.
Step 6: Maintain your Legal F-1 Status During OPT
Remember that throughout the entirety of your OPT, your legal immigration status is F-1. If you need to renew your visa, it would be an F-1 visa for which you apply; you must maintain a valid travel signature on your I-20 if you are traveling internationally.
Within 2-3 days of OPT approval you will receive an e-mail instructing you to set up your SEVP Portal. You are required to report employment and address updates through the portal. While on OPT, students are required to report any of the following within 10 days:
- A change in name or residential address
- The name and address of your employer. If you have more than one employer, you must provide each employer's name and address.
- The name and address of any new employer(s)
- Any change to any employer's name or address
- Any period(s) of unemployment, including those days between the end of one job and the beginning of the new job
- If you decide cease OPT and depart the U.S. (report to ISP)
- If you change to another immigration status in the U.S. (report to ISP)