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 up to 12 months. F-1 students can apply for OPT following each higher degree level.
If all of the below statements are TRUE, then you are eligible to apply for OPT:
Step 1: Read through the information in this section of the website and determine whether you are eligible for OPT. 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: Submit an OPT Request. Please note: Applications will not be accepted more than five business days in advance of your earliest filing date (90 days prior to program end date). This policy is in place to help avoid application denials due to timing errors.
Step 3: Pick up and sign your new I-20 from the OISP front desk at 102 Williams Hall. You will be notified via email when your I-20 is ready.
Step 4: Gather your OPT application materials. For full details on what is required for your OPT application, please visit the USCIS website. The below list of application materials is provided for your convenience and is not meant to replace the official instructions listed on the USCIS website.
Step 5: Mail your complete application to USCIS. You should include all the documents listed in Step 4 above. If you would like ISSS to review your application prior to mailing, please visit the office during walk-in hours and bring your complete application with you.
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 (USCIS will contact you based upon the information listed on the Form G-1145 you submitted with your application). Within two weeks of receiving the text/email, you should receive a paper Receipt Notice (Form I-797) in the mail. Both the text/email and the Receipt Notice should contain a Receipt Number which can be used to check your application status online.
To get a general idea of how long it will take USCIS to process your OPT application, you can visit the Check Case Processing Times page of the USCIS website. You will need to choose the appropriate service center from the pull-down. The service center processing your case will be listed in the bottom left corner of your I-797 Receipt Notice.
OPT processing times can range anywhere from 2-5 months. There is no guarantee USCIS will process your application within 90 days. If your application is processed and approved, your EAD card should arrive in the mail in approximately 7-10 days.
You may only begin working after you have received your EAD card and the start date on the card has been reached.
Both the text/email from USCIS and the I-797 Receipt Notice should contain a Receipt Number which can be used to check your application status online at the USCIS Case Status website. You can also Create a USCIS Account to receive case status updates via email or text message.
If you have entered your Receipt Number in the USCIS website and the number was not recognized, you should email email@example.com.
Once your application is approved and the EAD card is shipped, the USCIS Case Status website will provide the USPS tracking number for the envelope containing your EAD card. If you created a USCIS account and signed up for case status updates, you should automatically be notified via email when your card has been shipped.
While your OPT application is pending, you must report any changes in address to both ISSS and USCIS within 10 days of moving to the new address. It is also important to update USPS with any changes of address to ensure the proper delivery of your EAD card.
If your application has been pending more than 90 days, and you have not received your EAD card, you can call the USCIS Customer Service number listed on your Receipt Notice and ask that they open a service request. You can also submit a case inquiry for Outside Normal Processing Time online.
If the USCIS site shows that your card was delivered, but you have not yet received it, then you should contact your local post office. If you are still unable to locate the card:
Possible reasons for non-delivery:
After you receive your EAD card, you should look it over and make sure everything is correct. If you find any errors on the card, the process of correcting them depends upon the cause of the error:
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.
On March 23, 2018, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Portal was launched. All Illinois State University F-1 students on OPT must report changes to their information via the SEVP Portal. For more information regarding the portal, including a user guide and helpful videos, please visit the SEVP Portal Help page.
To help ensure that you are given proper access to the SEVP Portal, you should:
You can use the SEVP Portal to update your:
Remember, you must submit your updates via the SEVP Portal within 10 days of any change in the information.
The SEVP Portal cannot be used to update your email address. To request a change to your email address, please complete the SEVP Portal Account/Email Reset form. If any major change related to your visa status occurs, such as the following, please notify ISSS directly by emailing InternationalStudents@ilstu.edu:
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 Travel Signature form.