Optional Practical Training
To participate in Optional Practical Training (OPT), you must:
- Be a full-time student for at least one full academic year before OPT begins
- Maintain your legal status as an F-1 student
- Work only in the field in which you are currently studying (as indicated on your Form I-20)
- Engage in OPT for not more than 12 months total during the period of your F-1 status. Additional 12-month periods may be granted each time you graduate to a higher level of study (e.g., bachelor's to master's level).
- Engage in employment of no more than 20 hours per week while working on your required coursework (see Maintaining Your F-1 Status)
- Apply for OPT as early as 120 days before you complete your studies or before you would like to begin employment
- Apply for OPT before completing all degree requirements or before completiing your thesis or dissertation
- Complete OPT no more than 14 months after the completion of your academic program
All applications for OPT must be filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before completion of all course requirements or before completion of thesis or dissertation. OPT may begin any time within 60 days of completion of course study. You may request help with expedited processing if you have a job offer. The application for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) can take 60-120 days or longer to be processed. You may apply up to 90 days before the end of the program of study and up to 60 days after their program end date, provided the I-765 is filed within 30 days of the DSO recommendation in SEVIS. Students cannot begin work until they have obtained the EAD from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Please Note: If you have not received your EAD within this time frame, please make an appointment at the Chicago District Office to inquire at 550 W Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, IL. There is no longer the option to receive the temporary card.
Obtain and complete the following form:
- Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization (PDF) - Line 16 is (c)(3)(B)
Forms are also available in hard copy from the Office for International Programs (OIP).
Obtain a SEVIS I-20 with OPT recommendation on page 3 from OIP. You may obtain this recommendation by either: 1) dropping of your documents and then picking them up 5 business days later OR 2) making an appointment at OIP to go over your application materials. The SEVIS I-20 with OPT recommendation will be prepared for you during your appointment. To schedule an appointment, contact OIP at: 773.508.7706, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once you have obtained the SEVIS I-20 with OPT recommendation from OIP, mail the following documents to USCIS. Make a copy of the documents for your own records, then send the application by certified mail or overnight express. Please assemble the documents in the following order:
**Please Note: If you have a job offer letter when applying for Optional Practical Training, please have it on colored paper, and place it on top of the OPT application.
- Check or money order for $380.00 (payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"). Do Not Send Cash.
- Completed Form I-765
- Completed Form G-1145, E- Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
- Two (2) passport-size photos taken no earlier than 30 days before submission to USCIS. They should be 2-inch color photos, with a plain, light background, on thin paper, glossy, unretouched and unmounted. Photos should present your full head from top of hair to bottom of chin, with the height of your head measuring 1 inch to 1 3/8 inches. Lightly print your name and I-94 number on the back of each photo with a pencil. For a detailed explanation of passport photo specifications, see the State Department's Composition Checklist.
- Photocopy of I-94 card (front and back even if there is nothing written on the back)
- Original (given by OIP) SEVIS I-20 signed by student on page 1, with OPT recommendation from OIP on page 3
- Photocopies of all previous I-20s
- Photocopy of any previous EADs (if applicable)
- Photocopy of passport pages (including picture and passport expiration date)
- Photocopy of visa
- Photocopy of any previous I-797 Approval Notices (if applicable)
Send All Documents Listed in Step III to:
For USPS Delivery:
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
For Express Mail:
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
- It is very important to use a mailing address on your application that will be current 2 - 4 months into the future. USCIS correspondence cannot be forwarded. (If you have to move unexpectedly, it is possible to change your address with the USCIS Nebraska Service Center.)
- USCIS will send you a Receipt Notice within 3-4 weeks. It is important to keep this in case a problem arises.
- If you have applied for Optional Practical Training and have not been approved within 90 days after the USCIS has received your application, you may be able to obtain a temporary Employment Authorization Document locally. To apply for a temporary authorization card, you must make an appointment through Immigration Services InfoPass first. The appointment will be at 10 W. Jackson Blvd. Bring a copy of your receipt notice (with your LIN number on it), your I-20, a copy of your application for OPT, passport and I-94 card. They will take new photographs of you at this office.
- Once you receive your EAD, you must bring it to OIP so that a photocopy can be made for your file and information entered into SEVIS. This is mandatory.
- While on OPT, the USCIS requires that you inform the university of any change of address within 10 days. You may satisfy this requirement by notifying OIP of your change of address within 10 days and then OIP will notify USCIS. You may send an e-mail to OIP with your new address at email@example.com and change your local address in LOCUS (if you are still a Loyola student).
- Notify OIP if you decide to discontinue in F-1 status for Optional Practical Training. We will then inform USCIS.
- It is necessary that you have a Social Security Number before you can receive payment for your employment, and it is likely that your employer will require you to have the Social Security card before you even begin working. If you do not already have a SSN, you can apply for one only after you have received the EAD (Employment Authorization Document) from the U.S. immigration service. To apply for a SSN, you will need to visit a Social Security Administration office. After you apply, the wait time to receive your Social Security card is usually about two weeks. Details on how to apply are available at OIP or at www.luc.edu/oip/obtaining_a_social_security_card.shtml.
- USCIS will send you a Receipt of Notice within 3-4 weeks. It is important to keep this in case a problem arises.
REPORTING REQUIREMENTS FOR STUDENTS ON OPT
- As you know, as an F-1 student, you are required to report changes of address within 10 days of any move. This includes the period while you are on OPT. Change of name must also be reported while on OPT.
- Please fax a copy of your approved Employment Authorization Document when it arrives so that we can update the SEVIS record, if necessary, to show that it has been approved and so that we have a copy on file.
- You also need to report your employer's name and address. (This includes multiple employers.)
- Unpaid employment, including interning or volunteering in a position directly related to the academic field would be considered "employed" for the purposes of OPT employment.
- If you are currently unemployed, please indicate this to us. As long as you are actively searching for employment, there is no penalty for being unemployed.
- If you obtain a job or change employers in the future, you must notify us of that change as well.
- If you decide to discontinue F-1 status for Optional Practical Training and return home, please notify us. We will then inform the USCIS.
- Report this information directly to us on the form provided (below). You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax the information to 773-508-7125.
- OPT Required Reporting Form
Travel before OPT starts
U.S. immigration has recently provided some clarification about the issue of travel before OPT starts, indicating that students may travel provided they take certain documents proving eligibility for the visa renewal or re-entry to the U.S. If you are seeking a visa renewal and/or traveling and re-entering the U.S. before your OPT authorization dates go into effect but after your studies have been completed, you should bring with you your EAD (if you’ve received it already) or your OPT application receipt notice. In addition, the Office for International Programs suggests that you also bring proof that you have begun looking for a job, a photocopied page from OIP’s immigration advising manual, and a letter from OIP supporting your re-entry to the U.S.
Travel after OPT starts
For re-entry into the United States while on post-completion Optional Practical Training you will need the following:
- I-20 endorsed for travel by OIP before you leave the country
- Valid EAD
- Valid F-1 entry visa in your passport
It is strongly recommended that you have proof of a job offer or proof of having commenced employment if you seek to re-enter the U.S. during the dates of your OPT authorization. Immigration regulations state that students who have been issued an EAD for post-completion OPT may return to the U.S. "to resume employment" after a period of temporary absence, suggesting that an immigration inspector could ask you to show proof of employment. Proof of employment in the United States is especially necessary if you need to renew your F-1 visa while outside the United States while on OPT. If you do travel outside the U.S. while on OPT, you may wish to request a letter from the Office for International Programs supporting your re-entry to the U.S.