International Students

Optional Practical Training


Students applying for F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM Extension OPT may file Form I-765 online or via regular post. You should NOT mail your documents to USCIS if you choose to file online. If you choose to mail in your OPT application to USCIS, you can find the filing address for the USCIS Chicago Lockbox Facility on the USCIS website at If you choose to file online, here are some things to consider:
  • Students must still obtain an OPT endorsed I-20 or STEM OPT endorsed I-20 from the Office of International Affairs before filing Form I-765
  • Students must be within the United States when filing their OPT application online
  • USCIS may require you to appear for an interview or provide biometrics (fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature) at any time before making a decision on your application
  • USCIS must still receive your OPT application within 30 days of the OPT endorsed I-20 issuance date
  • You must upload a passport-style photograph (2 inches by 2 inches) of you must  be uploaded in JPG, JPEG or PNG file formats
  • Other files such as I-20 copies, passport and/or previous EAD must be uploaded in JPG, JPEG, PDF, TIF, or TIFF file formats (max size: 6 MB per file)
  • Foreign language documents must have an English translation
  • All uploaded files must have titles in English and no special characters (#, ?, etc.)
  • Do not enter “N/A” for non-applicable fields on the online application
  • The application will be submitted once the non-refundable $410 payment has been made. If you would like a student immigration coordinator to review your OPT application during a virtual appointment, please do not submit payment until we have reviewed your application

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a type of work authorization for F-1 students, defined in the federal regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." It is intended to provide students with practical experience in their field of study during or, more commonly, upon completion of a degree program.

An F-1 student may be authorized to receive up to a total of 12 months of OPT either before (pre-) and/or after (post-) completion of studies. However, students who have accumulated 12 months or more of full-time curricular practical training (CPT) are ineligible to apply for OPT.

An F-1 student is eligible for 12 months of OPT for each degree level. However, a student cannot apply for OPT at a degree level lower than one for which he/she has already been approved for OPT in the past.

Types of OPT

Post-Completion OPT

Post-completion OPT is employment authorized after the student's successful completion of studies and program end date. Please note that graduate students who have completed all coursework are eligible to apply for post-completion OPT to begin prior to their graduation date.

STEM Extension OPT

F-1 students who have completed a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in a field that is currently on the Department of Homeland Security's list of STEM fields (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and who are currently engaged in post-completion OPT may apply for the STEM extension if they have a job or job offer from an E-Verify employer.

Special Circumstances: Pre-Completion OPT and Cap Gap for F-1 Students

Pre-Completion OPT is employment authorized before the student's program end date. Students with approved pre-completion OPT may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students who are eligible to register for the next term, and who plan to do so, may have approval to work full time when school is not in session.

Cap Gap is the period of time between the end of the 60-day grace period following the expiration of Optional Practical Training (OPT) and the start of the H-1B status. Students may apply for an extension under special circumstances.