Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a form of temporary employment authorization for F-1students, 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.
If all of the below statements are TRUE, then you are eligible to apply for OPT:
Step 1: Determine Whether You Are Eligible
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 see Express Advising hours for ISSS on the ISSS Advising Services page.You must apply for OPT within the appropriate filing deadlines. ISSS highly recommends that you apply early because processing time can take 3-5 months. There is a very useful Planning Tool for Post-Completion OPT (recommended browser: Internet Explorer) located on the Study in the States website, which can help you determine your filing deadlines.
Step 2: Choose Your OPT Start Date
You choose when your OPT work authorization will begin. The Planning Tool for Post-Completion OPT (recommended browser: Internet Explorer) can also assist you with determining your OPT start date.
Step 3: Submit an OPT Request to ISSS via the ISSS Portal
You will need to submit this request in order to recieve your new OPT I-20 document from ISSS.
Step 4: Sign your new I-20 from ISSS
You will be notified via email when your new OPT I-20 is ready. Your I-20 will be uploaded digitally in the Control Center (Documents section) of your ISSS Portal. You must print and sign your new I-20 (signed in ink).
Step 5: Gather your OPT application materials.
For full details on what is required for your OPT application, please visit the USCIS website. The following list of application materials is provided for your convenience and is not meant to replace the official instructions listed on the USCIS website. All files must be saved as one of the following acceptable file formats: JPG, JPEG, PDF, TIF, or TIFF and must not exceed the maximum file size of 6MB.
Step 6: Create a USCIS online account
On April 12, 2021, USCIS announced that F-1 students seeking optional practical training (OPT) can now file Form I-765 online. To file online, you must first create a USCIS online account at https://myaccount.uscis.gov/. This free account allows you to submit your I-765 form online, pay the application fee, track your case status, communicate with USCIS through a secure inbox, and respond to Requests for Evidence.
Step 7: Submit your OPT I-765 application online
ISSS highly recommends that you file online. If you prefer to send a paper application, you can refer to the OPT Application Checklist and the I-765 Direct Filing Addresses page of the USCIS website to find the appropriate address to use.
ISSS will not review I-765 applications as you as the applicant are responsible for the completeness and accuracy of your application. These tips are provided for your convenience. They should not be viewed as legal advice and are not meant to replace the official instructions listed on the USCIS website.
Review and Submit
Immediately after submitting your online I-765 application, you should see confirmation on the screen that your I-765 was successfully submitted.
You may only begin working after you have received your EAD card and the start date on the card has been reached.
To ensure your SEVIS record accurately reflects the status of your USCIS application for Optional Practical Training (OPT), you should upload the following documents in the ISSS Portal.
You can check your case status by logging into your USCIS Account and navigating to the Case Status tab of your I-765 application. ISSS recommends you set your account notifications to receive both text messages and emails and login to your account on a weekly basis to check for updates or action items.
Even though you may have finished your program at ISU, you continue to have reporting obligations to ISSS while on OPT.
Before you graduate: you should continue to report any changes to your personal contact information (phone, address, etc.) by updating your contact information in your MyIllinoisState account.
After you graduate: you will report any personal contact information changes directly through the ISSS Portal. When you submitted your OPT Request to ISSS, you provided a personal (non-ilstu) email address in your request. Your new ISSS Portal login instructions will be sent to this personal email address shortly after you graduate. The email will ask you to create a new login for your "non-integrated" ISSS Portal account. Basically, what "non-integrated" means is that your ISSS Portal account will no longer be connected to your My account, since you are no longer a student.
Once you have your new "non-integrated" ISSS Portal login, you will be able to report any changes to your personal contact information by editing your profile information directly in your ISSS Portal. You will use the SEVP Portal to report any updates to your employment while on OPT. See the Reporting Requirements section of this page for further details.
On or after your OPT EAD card start date, you will receive an email from do-not-reply.SEVP@ice.dhs.gov with a link to setup your SEVP Portal account. After you have setup your SEVP Portal account, you should use it to report any updates to your employment while on OPT.
All other changes, including changes to your address and phone, should be reported through your ISSS Portal.
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. To be considered "employed" while on OPT, you must be working for at least 20 hours/week in a paid or unpaid position. If you are working multiple jobs, they must collectively add up to at least 20 hours per week.
You cannot begin working on OPT until you have your 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.
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 your employer and/or a faculty member within your previous ISU academic department stating how the job duties directly relate to your field of study.
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.
"Cap Gap" is a term used to describe the "gap" between the end of OPT/STEM Extension and the beginning of H-1B status with an employer subject to the H-1B "cap".
You are eligible for a Cap Gap Extension to your OPT employment if:
IMPORTANT: If your H-1B petition was receipted after your OPT EAD card had expired (but before your 60-day grace period ended), then you are eligible for a Cap Gap Extension to your F-1 status, but not to your employment authorization. You can remain in the U.S. in F-1 status, but you cannot work during the "gap" period.
F-1 students who are eligible for Cap Gap and would like a new I-20 printed reflecting the extension of their status/employment should submit a Cap Gap Request in the ISSS Portal.
Your are NOT eligible for a Cap Gap Extension if:
Though you may no longer be an ISU student, your are still in F-1 student status while on OPT and continue to have requirements to report information to ISSS.
Shortly after you graduate, you will receive an email to setup your new "non-integrated" ISSS Portal account. This email will be sent to the personal (non-ilstu) email you provided on the OPT Request you submitted to ISSS. Once you have created your new "non-integrated" account login, you will be able to make personal contact information updates directly in your ISSS Portal user profile. Your ISSS Portal account will no longer be tied to your My account because you will no longer be a student.
Illinois State University F-1 students on OPT should report changes to their personal contact information through the ISSS Portal within 10 days.
You will gain access to the SEVP Portal through a link sent to you via email. This email will come from email@example.com and will be sent to the email address currently listed in your ISSS Portal profile. The email with the link to the SEVP Portal will only be sent after:
If you believe you should have received this email, but did not, please first check your spam or junk mail folders. If you still do not see it, please submit an SEVP Portal Account Reset request in the ISSS Portal.
Illinois State University F-1 students on OPT should report changes to their employment information through the SEVP Portal within 10 days.
If you have been locked out of your SEVP Portal account, click the "Reset Password" link on the SEVP Portal Login page. The SEVP Portal will send you an email with a temporary password, so you can login and create a new password.
If you already attempted to reset your password and are still unable to login to the SEVP Portal, please submit an SEVP Portal Account Reset request in the ISSS Portal.
You must report any changes in your personal contact or employment information to ISSS within 10 days. All ISU F-1 students on OPT must report changes as follows.
You should report each of your OPT employers by following these steps:
|STEP 1: Submit an OPT Relationship to Major Request in the ISSS Portal (one request for each new employer).|
|STEP 2: Login to the SEVP Portal and add your employment information.|
For additional information, see the SEVP Portal Help page on Study in the States.
If you need to edit the information for a current employer, you can make those edits directly in the SEVP Portal. You do not need to submit and OPT Employment Relationship to Major request unless the edit involves a change in your job duties.
You should report any updates to your personal contact information by following these steps:
|STEP 1: Login to the ISSS Portal by clicking on the Alumni Login . Your username is your personal email address and you created your own password. DO NOT LOGIN USING CENTRAL LOGIN.|
|STEP 2: From your user homepage, click on Edit Profile.|
|STEP 3: Choose the Address Info tab to edit your address. After making your edits, click "Update". Choose the Information tab to edit your phone number and click "Update".|
|STEP 4: ISSS will process your personal information changes. Once your request has been processed, you will see the information updated in your SEVP Portal.|
You should report a change to your email address by following these steps:
|STEP 1: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your new email address.|
|STEP 2: ISSS will update your email address in the ISSS Portal and you will receive an automatic email with temporary login credentials.|
|STEP 3: Click on the link in the email to login to the ISSS Portal. Your new username for the ISSS Portal will be your updated email address and you will create your own password.|
|STEP 4: ISSS will update your email address in SEVIS and you will receive an automatic email with temporary login credentials.|
|STEP 5: Login to the SEVP Portal with your new email address and temporary password.|
Please see the chart below for information regarding other common changes that should be reported while on OPT. Email email@example.com if you need to report a change that is not covered by the information on this page.
Change Your Name: Submit an Immigration Documents Update in the ISSS Portal and upload your new passport showing your new name. Before making any changes to your name, please note that you will have to reapply for OPT (and pay the application fee again) in order to update the name on your EAD card.
|Leave the U.S.: Submit a Program Completion Request in the ISSS Portal if you plan to depart the U.S. prior to your OPT end date, with no plans to return and resume OPT.|
|Transfer to Another School: Submit a F-1 SEVIS Transfer Out Request in the ISSS Portal if you plan to stop working on OPT and transfer to another US institution to begin a new program of study.|
|Begin a New Degree Program: Submit a Change of Level Request in the ISSS Portal if you plan to stop working on OPT and begin a new degree program at ISU.|
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 submitting a Travel Signature Request in the ISSS Portal.