F-1 optional practical training (OPT)
In light of COVID-19 concerns and in accordance with guidance from the University to limit/suspend face-to-face instruction, all OPT workshops will be held virtually until further notice.
Still have questions after watching the online workshop? We've got answers!
Join one of our Q&A sessions through Zoom! Click here for the full calendar of sessions offered.
What is OPT?
F-1 post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows F- students to be employed in the United States one year after completion of studies. Graduate students may apply for OPT after finishing all coursework but prior to thesis deposit and/or defense. Employment must be directly related to field of study and correspond with 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 period.
- Are you completing the degree (non-thesis track) or finishing your required coursework (thesis track)
- Have you studied for a minimum of two semesters (Fall & Spring), directly prior to your completion of studies?
- Do you have a valid passport?
- Are you in valid F-1 status?
- If you have engaged in CPT employment, have you complied with all registration requirements?
- You may apply up to 90 days before your program end date.
- The deadline to apply is the 60th day after your program end date.
- You must select an OPT start date within the 60-day period after your program end date. Please note that this date is not guaranteed, as USCIS will determine the actual start date of your authorization.
- Average application processing time ranges from 90-120 days.
The 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 OPT I-20 was issued and you have not mailed off your application, please contact us. 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 I-20 request e-form through iSTART to receive your new I-20 with ISSS recommendation for OPT. Click here to access the OPT Request e-form. You will also need to pay the $100 OPT Management Fee before your new I-20 can be processed. Please click here to make your payment.
- I-765 filing fee currently $410 payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security".
- Two identical immigration-style photos taken within 30 days of filing Form I-765. Photos should be placed in a clear Ziploc-type bag. For more photo guidelines, please refer to the “Color Photo Specifications” section below, or visit the U.S State Department website. ISSS recommends photos be taken professionally to comply with photo regulations.
- Copy of pages 1 & 2 of Form I-20 printed with the OPT endorsement, signed by the DSO and student on page 1.
- Form I-765 (Please follow instructions on USCIS website. Guidelines from ISSS available below.)
- Form I-765 Instructions also state that the applicant must use Form I-765 Part 6., Additional Information, to provide:
- "All previously used SEVIS numbers" and
- "Evidence of any previously authorized CPT or OPT and the academic level at which it was authorized.
- Passport ID pages: photo page, page with passport validity dates, including renewal page if original has expired, and pages showing amendments such as name changes, corrections, etc.
- Most recent F-1 entry visa page (if any).
Optional: You may also include the optional form G-1145 e-Notification of Application to receive a confirmation that your application has been received by USCIS. This is NOT your official receipt notice.
The I-765 must be properly and timely filed with USCIS. The student must file an OPT application (signed I-765, signed I-20, and fee) within 30 days of the DSO's OPT recommendation in SEVIS, AND within other OPT filing deadlines.
Mailing Your Application
If the mailing address is in Illinois:
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS):
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ, 85036
For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
Attn: NFB AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
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.
If the mailing address is in a different state, please confirm appropriate USCIS lockbox address first.
Note: As of 01/11/2019, applicants MUST use the 05/31/2018 edition.
Please follow the I-765 instructions provided on the USCIS website, particularly page 15 - 19. For your reference, please see below for general guidelines to assist you.
- Part 1.
- For the initial OPT application, this is considered to be ‘initial permission to accept employment’.
- Part 2.
- Provide basic biographical information about yourself. Note: If using a friend or relative’s address, complete Question #5.a (In Care of Name).
- Question #26 – provide your CURRENT SEVIS number, listed at the top of your I-20 document.
- Question #27 – (C)(3)(B) is the eligibility category for POST-completion OPT. You are NOT required to complete Question 28 as a result.
- Part 3.
- Don't forget to sign within the 'Applicant's Signature' box. Signature should not touch the lines or go beyond the space provided.
- In general, Part 4 and Part 5 do not apply to student's applying for OPT as students do not generally have an interpreter assisting with the application.
- Part 6.
- This section can be used to provide information on previously used SEVIS numbers and to indicate attached files such as previous EAD, approval notice and I-20s.
- Example: Page 3. Section 2. Number 27.
- List previously used SEVIS numbers and indicate "previous CPT/OPT authorization documents attached."
- Put 'N/A' if a question does not apply to you.
- You must complete and submit ALL 7 pages with your application.
You must submit two identical color passport-style photographs of yourself taken recently (within 30 days of filing form I-765).
The photos must have:
- A white or off-white background, be printed on thin paper with a glossy finish, and be unmounted and unretouched.
- The two identical passport-style photos must be 2 by 2 inches.
- The photos must be in color with a full face, frontal view, on a white to off-white background.
- Head height should measure 1 to 1 3/8 inches from the top of your hair to the bottom of your chin, and eye height is between 1 1/8 to 1 3/8 inches from the top of your eyes to the bottom of photo.
- Your head must be bare unless you are wearing headwear as required by a religious denomination of which you are a member.
- Using a pencil or felt pen, lightly print your name and SEVIS number on the back of the photos.
- Students with a program end date in August are limited to holding a 50% assistantship in summer prior to program end date, and must register for a full course load or have a reduced course load in place for that semester.
- Check with ISSS prior to international travel - travel endorsements need renewing every six months while on OPT
- Keep ISSS updated with any changes in home address, employer (including being unemployed), and email address, by visiting iStart within 10 days of the change.
- While on OPT, you are allowed to be unemployed for up to 90 days (cumulative throughout your OPT period).
- Prior to leaving Illinois, update UI-Integrate with your preferred non-Illinois 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 Illinois 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: https://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, please submit a copy via the OPT Employer Information Update e-form in iStart, when you report OPT employment.
- Submit OPT Employer Information Update e-form within 10 days of employment (including reporting unemployment).
The e-form will only be available in iStart after your OPT start date. You will receive a new I-20 with employer information listed.
- Submit address updates whenever you move within the U.S.
- 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.