OPT (Optional Practical Training) is an employment opportunity for F-1 visa holders through the U.S. government.  For each academic level at NU (undergrad, grad), students can receive 12 months of total OPT time. Students with a STEM degree can apply to renew their OPT for an additional 24 months.  Pre-completion OPT is done while students are studying and is part-time during their studies and full-time during holidays.  Post-completion OPT must be at least 20 hours a week.

Post-completion OPT is the most common.  It is critical to begin your application punctually.  Students can submit applications 90 days before their program end date on their I-20 and up to 60 days after their program end date.  Because USCIS takes about 3 months to process OPT applications, if students wait until the last minute, their total OPT time can be shortened.

Read this OPT PowerPoint and OPT Checklist for detailed OPT information.

Please contact the International Student Services Office if you are interested.  OPT is quite complex, and it is hard to give adequate advice over the Internet.

To apply for OPT, please schedule a 1-hour meeting with the International Student Services Office and be prepared to submit the following information:

  • A completed OPT Application Form.
  • Apply for graduation and receive an updated degree audit from the Registrar’s office. Graduate students, do not worry about the degree audit as we will communicate with your program coordinator.
  • Pay off your student account balance. We will check this.

Also, you will need to prepare these items to send to USCIS:

  • Form I-765 (#16 should be filled in with (C) (3) (B).
  • Copy of your valid passport biographical page (with extension page, if applicable).
  • Copy of your most recent F-1 visa stamp/status approval notice.
  • Printout of I-94 Record.
  • Copy of all previous I-20 forms at your current academic level (if applicable).
  • Copy of any previous Employment Authorization Document (if applicable).
  • Check or money order for $410 made payable to: Department of Homeland Security.
  • 2 recent passport photos in a small envelope.  Write your name and your SEVIS ID number must be printed in pencil on the back of the photos.  Passports should be 2 inches x 2 inches.

After you bring all the above documents to the International Student Services Office, we will create a new OPT I-20 for you that will show your requested OPT start and end dates. This new I-20 must be signed and dated, and it must be included in the OPT Application packet for USCIS.

Once we issue you an OPT I-20, you have 30 days to submit your OPT application to USCIS or your application will be automatically denied.

After all of your documents are in order, mail your application package to the following address (ISS will not mail your package for you):

Mailing the OPT Application packet to USCIS:
You want a tracking number!  Spend more money to ensure your application gets their safely and timely.

Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S, Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Other option: First-Class Mail to: USCIS, PO Box 21281, Phoenix, AZ 85036

While you are waiting for your OPT to be approved:

  • USCIS should mail you a receipt number within a few weeks once they have received your application.  This number is very important in case you want to call USCIS regarding the status of your application.
  • USCIS takes approximately 2-3 months to approve OPT applications.
  • You must receive your EAD card before you can begin working.
  • You must not begin working before your EAD start date.
  • Do not leave the United States until you have received your EAD card!