optional practical training (OPT)
International Student and Scholar Services will run OPT workshops throughout each semester. Please check the OPT workshop schedule for specific dates and times. If you are unable to attend the workshop, you may contact our office to schedule an individual appointment with an ISSS advisor. Workshops will last about an hour and latecomers will not be admitted.
F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows you to work one year after completion of studies. Graduate students may apply for OPT after finishing all coursework but prior to thesis deposit. Employment should directly relate to your field of study and correspond with your education level. No job offer is needed to apply. However, OPT applicants are only allowed a total of 90 days unemployment during their initial 12 month OPT allocation
- Are you completing the degree (or finishing your coursework)?
- Have you studied for a minimum of two semesters, directly prior to your completion?
- Are you maintaining your F-1 status?
- Have you complied with your registration requirements for previous CPT?
- Do you have a valid passport?
Dates and Deadlines
- You can begin to apply no sooner than 90 days before your program end date but no later than 60 days after your program end date.
- Application processing time is approximately 90 days.
- OPT can begin the day after or up to 60 days after your program end date.
IMPORTANT: Application MUST be received by USCIS within 30 days of ISSS creating a new I-20 or OPT will be denied.
*** If it has been more than 30 days since your I-20 was requested, and you have not yet mailed off your application, please contact ISSS. ISSS will cancel the current request. You must then complete and submit the OPT Re-request e-form through iStart. Please do not submit a Reprint Request for this purpose.
Please submit an OPT advisor form (e-form) to receive your new I-20 with ISSS recommendation for OPT. Choose from the appropriate form below:
OPT Non Thesis Track Advisor's form (iStart e-form)
OPT Thesis Track Advisor's form (iStart e-form)
Application materials to mail to USCIS:
- Personal Check or money order for $380.00, payable to the “US Department of Homeland Security”. *Please note that OPT applications received by USCIS on or after 12/23/2016 will be subject to the new filing fee of $410.00.
- Two photographs. (*Do not wear glasses*). Lightly write your name and SEVIS ID on the back of the photos. Place the photos in a clear Ziploc-type bag. (photo specifications below)
- Form I-765
- Photocopy of pages 1 & 2 of your new I-20 with the ISSS recommendation for OPT
- Photocopy of the front and back of your I-94 card or download and print out the electronic admission record from www.cbp.gov/i94.
- Photocopy of the identity page and visa page from your passport, including passport expiration date.
o If applicable…
• Photocopy of any previous I-20s with OPT/CPT recommendations from current level of study.
• Photocopy of the front and back of your last EAD & I-797 Notice of Action.
For Certified Mail send to:
US Citizenship and Immigration Services
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ, 85036
For Express/Overnight Mail send to:
US Citizenship and Immigration Services
Phoenix Lockbox, Attn AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S, Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ, 85034
Note: Mail by certified mail with a Return Receipt Requested or Express/Overnight with Delivery Confirmation. Make photocopies of all documents you send for your records. DO NOT SUBMIT THE APPLICATION ELECTRONICALLY.
Completing the I-765
- Skip top box, below the box mark I am applying for... Permission to accept employment.
- Questions 1- 8: Basic biographical information.
o Note: Will your address be valid throughout the processing period? If not, please remember that mail from USCIS cannot be forwarded to a new address. If you use an address that is outside of the Nebraska Service Center jurisdiction, you should apply to the Service Center corresponding to your state: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/forms-information/uscis-phoenix-and-dallas-lockbox-facilities
- Question 9: Input your social security number if applicable. You do not need a SSN to apply for OPT.
- Question 10: Input the 11 digit number of the top of your I-94 card.
- Question 11: Check ‘no’ if you have never filed an I-765 before.
- Question 12 & 13: This information can be found on the stamp of your 1-94 card.
- Question 14: F1- Student (if this is the manner in which you last entered the US)
- Question 15: F1- Student
- Question 16: ( c ) ( 3 ) ( B ) [NOTE: If you are filing for PRE-completion OPT, use code (c) (3) (A)]
Color Photo Specifications
- Your photograph must be:
- 2x2 inches in size: if the image area on the photograph is too large or too small, the photo cannot be used
- Both photographs must be identical
- Taken within the past 30 days, showing current appearance
- Full face, front view with a plain white or off-white background; facial features MUST be identifiable
- Between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
- Taken in normal street attire
- Uniforms should not be worn in photographs except religious attire that is worn daily.
- Do not wear a hat or headgear that obscures the hair or hairline.
- If you normally wear prescription glasses, a hearing device, wig or similar articles, they should be worn for your picture.
- Dark glasses or nonprescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless you need them for medical reasons. A medical certificate may be required.
More details on color photo specifications can be found here.
- Note that students applying for post-completion OPT to begin in August are limited to holding a 50% assistantship in summer, and must register for a full course load or apply for a reduction through ISSS.
- Check with ISSS prior to international travel - travel endorsements need renewing every six months whilst on OPT
- Keep ISSS updated with any changes in home address, employer (including being unemployed), and email address by visiting https://sunapsis.illinois.edu within 10 days of the change.
- While on OPT, you have a 90 day limit on the amount of time you can be unemployed.
- Prior to leaving UIUC, update UI-Integrate with your preferred non-UIUC e-mail address.
- You will not be able to hold student employment on campus after your program end date. This includes hourly and graduate assistant work done on the UIUC campus. As ending your program early can result in the loss of your tuition waiver, we recommend you review the Graduate College policy on tuition waivers before shortening your I-20: http://www.grad.illinois.edu/gradhandbook/2/chapter7/tuition-waivers
- Do not withdraw your registration after you apply for or receive OPT. If you do, ISSS must terminate your F-1 record.
- Once you receive your Notice of Action Form (2-3 weeks after applying) you can use the case number and provided web address to follow the status of your application.
- You may not begin your OPT employment until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and the effective date on the card has been reached.
- Once you receive your EAD card, you should provide ISSS with a copy, so that we can ensure your SEVIS record is properly updated and avoid cancellation of your OPT. If you are no longer in the C-U area, you can email a scanned version of the card to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax a copy to 217-244-0530.
- If you are a beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition requesting an employment start date of October 1st of the following fiscal year your work authorization under OPT will automatically extend to October 1st. However, the extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on your behalf. If your status has been extended, you are responsible for reporting this information to ISSS so we can ensure your SEVIS record has been updated with the extension.