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.
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 (Fillable).
- Undergraduate students should 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 (#27 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. If applying online you can use debit or credit card.
- 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. If applying online you can use digital photos.
There are two ways to apply online or on-paper. You can choose which you prefer.
After you gather all of the necessary documents 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 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) or submit your application online.
Mailing the OPT Application packet to USCIS:
You want a tracking number! Spend more money to ensure your application gets there safely and timely.
For United States Postal Services (USPS)
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680
Other option: FedEx, UPS, and DHL Deliveries: USCIS Attn: I-765 C03 131 South Dearborn-3rd Floor Chicago, IL 60603-5517
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.
- If applying online you can log-in to check 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!
Stem OPT Extension
What makes you eligible to apply for a STEM OPT Extension?
- you graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, Biology, Computer Science or a Bachelor of Arts in Math (or possibly another STEM related degree, check with ISS staff if you think you may be eligible)
- you are in a valid period of standard post-completion OPT
- you have an offer of paid employment for at least 20 hours per week for an employer that is enrolled and in good standing with E-Verify, the electronic employment eligibility verification program administered by USCIS.
How to apply for a Stem OPT Extension
- Review the following:
- Make an Appointment with NU International Student Services
When can you apply for STEM OPT Extension?
You can apply for the extension at anytime before the end of your standard post-completion OPT.
If your extension is not approved before the the end date of your OPT (written on your EAD card) you can continue working for 180 days. If your extension has not been approved after 180 days, you must stop working. However you are allowed to remain in the country while you wait for the decision on your STEM OPT extension.