Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Overview for Practical Training in F-1 Status

What is Practical Training?

Practical Training is a legal means by which F-1 students can obtain employment in areas related to their academic field of study for up to 12 months in the US. The objective of practical training is not financial but rather an opportunity to gain practical work experience related to your field of study. Optional Practical Training (OPT) can be done before or after completion of studies.

Practical Training After Completion of Studies

ELIGIBILITY: You must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for at least a full academic year, (9 months) currently be in F-1 status, have completed all requirements to receive degree by the end of the semester, and have not used up more than twelve months of full-time curricular or optional practical training.

WHEN TO APPLY: You are eligible to apply for OPT 90 days prior to completion of studies, and up to 60 days after your program completion date.

For Spring Semester, that means you can start applying around mid-February.  For those graduating in Fall, that means towards the end of September.

How to Apply

  1. Verification from your adviser stating the date you will complete your program.
  2. Make an appointment to see International Student Adviser to determine if you are eligible. If you are eligible, gather materials necessary for submission (see OPT Checklist)
  3. When you have gathered the necessary materials/information, review your application with the International Student Adviser. Make sure you bring all items listed on the application sheet.
  4. The International Student Office will: Review your application, endorse your new I-20, and copy the entire application (you will receive a copy as well)
  5. You should mail the application via certified mail to:

For FedEx, UPS, and DHL delivery:
Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn – 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

For general US Postal Service delivery:
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

*Once your I-20 has been endorsed and your I-765 has been forwarded to the USCIS, it is very difficult to withdraw or cancel the recommendation.

 After You Apply

After approximately 3-4 weeks you should receive a receipt (Form I-797) from the USCIS. It will include a receipt number (usually beginning with YSC or WAC) and the date your application was received. Applications are tracked by using the receipt number, not your name.

You can check the status of your application by using USCIS Case Status Online page:  https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do or by calling the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283. The best time to call is at night. It will take approximately 60-75 days to obtain your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). If after 90 days from the receipt date you have not received your EAD, contact the International Student Advisor in the International Programs Office for instructions on obtaining an interim EAD.

For E-notification of acceptance of your application, you can fill out a G-1145 form and the USCIS will email/text you within 24 hours of accepting your form.  Please note that this does NOT grant OPT status or benefit.  You still need to receive the original EAD card to begin working.

Things to Consider

  • You can receive a job offer before you receive your EAD, but you cannot begin employment until USCIS has issued you an EAD.
  • Travel outside of the country after you have filed your application and before you have received your EAD card can be risky. Please see the OPT travel chart for risk levels and what documents you need to re-enter.
  • You may only be unemployed for an aggregate total of 90 days. This means 90 days only for the whole period of OPT, not just 90 days in a row.
  • You must provide the International Programs Office with the address of your company or organization so that your SEVIS record can be updated. You may also intern or volunteer with a company or organization to avoid being unemployed, but you must still provide us with the contact information for that group.
  • You must leave the country no later than 60 days after you complete your training, which should be no later than 14 months after completing your studies