Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a form of temporary employment authorization for F-1 students, which allows them to gain practical experience in their field. Post-completion OPT occurs after a student has finished his/her degree program. A student approved for Post-completion OPT is authorized to work in the U.S. in a job directly-related to his/her field of study for 12 months. F-1 students can apply for OPT following each higher degree level.
Step 1: Read through and sign the OPT Student Acknowledgement Form. If you are unsure whether you are eligible for OPT or have questions about the application process, you can meet with an International Student Advisor during walk-in hours.
Step 2: Complete the Student Section of the OPT Request Form.
Step 3: Meet with your Academic Advisor and have him/her complete and sign the Academic Advisor Section of the OPT Request Form. The purpose of the Advisor Section of the form is to confirm the date of your degree completion.
Step 4: Gather OPT application materials. The below documentation should be placed in this order. Please remove all staples and secure with one clip.
Step 5: Drop off your USCIS OPT Application, Student Acknowledgement Form, and OPT Request Form at the OISP front desk during regular business hours.
Step 6: Sign your new OPT I-20 and include a copy in your application along with your other I-20 copies.
Step 7: Mail your application to USCIS. You should include all the documents listed in Step 4 above.
**USCIS must receive your application within 30 days from the date your OPT request was entered into the SEVIS system by your International Student Advisor or within the 60 days following your program end date, whichever is sooner. You are responsible for mailing your application. Please see Mailing Addresses to find the appropriate address to use. The state should correspond with the address you entered on your I-765 form.
Two to three days after USCIS receives your OPT application, you should receive an email and/or text message from them indicating that they have received your application. Within two weeks of receiving the text/email, you should receive a paper Receipt Notice (Form I-797). Both the text/email and the Receipt Notice should contain a Receipt Number which can be used to check your application status online at the USCIS Case Status website.
Approximately 2-3 months (90 days) after USCIS receives your application, you should receive an approval message on the website and an Approval Notice in the mail. Approximately 7-10 days after your application is approved, your EAD card should arrive in the mail. The USCIS Case Status website will provide the USPS tracking number for the envelope containing your EAD.
You may only begin working after you have received your EAD card and the start date on the card has been reached.
Any job you take while on OPT must be directly related to your field and level of study and must be for at least 20 hours/week in a paid or unpaid position.
You cannot begin working on OPT until you have the EAD card in your hand and the start date has been reached, and you must stop working on the end date listed on the EAD card.
While on OPT, you cannot exceed 90 days of unemployment for the entire 12 months. Staying past the 90-day limit may be considered a violation of status by DHS.
If you are uncertain whether a potential job would be considered in your field of study, ISSS recommends that you obtain a signed letter from a faculty member within your previous ISU academic department stating how the job duties relate to your field of study.
Though you may no longer be an ISU student, your are still in F-1 student status while on OPT and you continue to have requirements to report information to ISSS. You must notify ISSS within 10 days of any change(s) in your name, address, or employment information. If any change in this information occurs, please complete the OPT/STEM Information Reporting Form and email it to InternationalStudents@IllinoisState.edu. If you haven't already in the past, please also attach a copy of the front and back of your EAD card to the email message.
Please also notify ISSS if any major change related to your visa status occurs, such as the following:
Traveling outside of the U.S. prior to receiving work authorization is strongly discouraged. Attempting to enter the U.S. without proof of employment may result in denial. When traveling outside of the U.S. following OPT approval, the following documents are required:
If the travel signature on page 2 of your most recent I-20 has expired, you can request a new signature by completing the OPT/STEM Information Reporting Form and emailing it to InternationalStudents@ilstu.edu. Section D of the form is where you will indicate your travel signature request and the reason for it.