Video: Post-Completion OPT and Eligibility

Eligibility

Post-Completion Optional Practical Training is a benefit available to those in valid F-1 student status. It is 12 months of work authorization granted by USA Citizenship and Immigration Service to F-1 students for the purpose of gaining practical experience directly related to their program of study. The Office of Global Services first recommends Optional Practical Training and the student then applies to the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services for work authorization, which is authorized in the form of an Employment Authorization Document. Post-Completion Optional Practical Training takes place after the program completion date (the end of the program of study, not necessarily the date of graduation).

Students can apply for 12 months of Post-Completion Optional Practical Training upon completion of each higher degree level. Only one Post-Completion Optional Practical Training application is allowed per academic degree level (i.e. Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD).

You may apply for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training only if all of the following criteria have been met:

  • You have maintained a valid F-1 student status
  • You have enrolled full-time for at least one academic year
  • You have completed fewer than 365 days of full-time Curricular Practical Training at the degree level for which you are applying for Optional Practical Training
  • You have completed all coursework but are in final stages of thesis/dissertation
  • You have not already departed the USA after the program completion date

NOTE: If you depart the USA before your Optional Practical Training application has been filed, received and receipted by the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services, you become ineligible to apply for Post-Optional Practical Training if your program has ended.

How to apply

2 Complete the Quiz

Complete and pass the Optional Practical Training Quiz through Optional Practical Training Central.

3 Submit the Request

Submit Post-Optional Practical Training Recommendation Request through Optional Practical Training Central.

You must upload the following documents on the e-form:

4 Send in Documents

Send the documents listed below to the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services:

  • Original I-765 – please refer to the tab at the end of this section
  • Original G-1145
  • Copy of new I-20 with Optional Practical Training recommendation on page 2
  • Copies of all previous I-20s for the current degree level
  • Copy of passport identity page — include all correction and extension pages
  • Copy of most current F-1 student visa stamp or change of status approval notice
  • Copy of I-94
  • Copy of previous Employment Authorization Document (front and back) – if applicable
  • $410 check, money order or bank check made payable to the USA Department of Homeland Security
  • Two passport photos with white background (lightly write your name and Student and Exchange Visitor Information System identification with a pencil the on back of each photo; passport photo MUST be less than 30 days old and glasses should not be worn in photo)
  • Copy of your Northeastern transcript (optional)

When you can apply

You may apply to the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training work authorization no earlier than 90 days prior to your program completion date. Post-Completion Optional Practical Training applications cannot be submitted to the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services later than 60 days after the program completion date (i.e. during the 60-day grace period). Once your program has ended, plan to submit your documents by the middle of your grace period to allow enough time for your application to be successfully received.

Optional Practical Training application timeline

Important reminder about completion date

The program end date on your I-20 is an estimated program end date, which may be different from your actual program end date. You must apply for Optional Practical Training based on your last registered term. For immigration purposes, program completion date corresponds with the last term of enrollment, not necessarily the date of the graduation ceremony or degree conferral date.

For example, if you finish all of your courses in May, but your degree conferral is in August, your I-20 end date will be a May date if you have no registration over the summer.

Choosing a completion date for PhD students

Students in the PhD program may choose the date of completion based on any of the following dates:

  • Dissertation defense date, or
  • Dissertation/correction submission date, or
  • End of last registered term

Watch the Video »

How to choose OPT start dates

If you have not used any Pre-Optional Practical Training time, you can request up to 12 months of Post-Completion Optional Practical Training. You must request a start date within the 60-day grace period of your program. You select your own start and end date for Optional Practical Training (even if you do not yet have a job offer).

Here are some general suggestions to help you make the best decision for your situation:

  • If you have a job offer and your job starts during your 60-day grace period, use the job start date (or earlier) as your requested start of Optional Practical Training
  • If you have a job offer and it starts after your 60-day grace period, use the latest date possible (59th day of grace period) for your Optional Practical Training start date

If you choose an earlier Optional Practical Training start date:

PRO: Your employer will be impressed that you can start your new job so quickly.

CON: If you don’t find a job quickly, you may risk being unemployed for 90 days and would need to leave the USA.

If you choose a later Optional Practical Training start date:

PRO: You have less of a chance to be unemployed for 90 days and be required to leave the USA.

CON: A job offer could be rescinded if your employment start date is uncertain or too far in the future.

If you choose to send your Optional Practical Training application to the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services close to your program end date or during your grace period in order to postpone your Optional Practical Training start date as late as possible:

PRO: You will have extra time to find a job.

CON: Your Optional Practical Training start date will be uncertain – Optional Practical Training start date will be the date of approval, not your requested start date.

CON: Job offer may be rescinded because of long wait time.

CON: You may not receive all 12 months of Optional Practical Training. (Optional Practical Training end date must be within 14 months of program end date.)

REMINDER: If there is a gap between your completion date and Optional Practical Training start date, you have no work authorization during the gap!

PhD students

If a PhD student has completed all his/her coursework but is in the final stages of thesis/dissertation, immigration regulations allow the student to apply for either Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training or Post-Completion Optional Practical Training while completing his/her thesis/dissertation.

In this case, the PhD student and his/her college need to determine the end date of program completion, and the student’s I-20 will reflect it as the completion date of his/her program.

Please note that if you choose to apply for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training while completing thesis/dissertation,

  • You must fulfill the reporting requirements of Post-Optional Practical Training
  • Days you do not have a job count toward 90 days of unemployment time
  • You cannot request program extension even if your thesis/dissertation is not completed after Post-Optional Practical Training is expired

Type of employment

It is the responsibility of the student to determine if the accepted employment is related to his/her program of study.

The following criteria must be met when you engage in work during Post-Completion Optional Practical Training:

  • You must work a minimum of 20 hours per week
  • All work must be directly related to your program of study

When considering work opportunities, the following employment types are permissible for Optional Practical Training:

  • Paid or unpaid employment
  • Multiple employers: you may work for multiple employers while on Post Optional Practical Training. All work obtained must be directly related to your program of study
  • Work for hire: This is often referred to as 1099 employment. You can contract yourself out to a company. (This is similar to working as a freelancer)
  • Self-employed/business owner: You may start your own business. (Consult with a lawyer in order to find out what is needed to start a company)
  • Employment through an agency or consulting firm: You may work for a placement agency or consulting firm. (This experience will usually involve temporary or contract work)

NOTE: Guidelines for STEM employers differ; please see our Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training section for more details

Mailing your documents

Once you have your documents and I-20 for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training and you have copied all documentation and assembled the packet, you must send it to one of the following addresses depending on where you live (the address you put on Form I-765). It is recommended you mail your Optional Practical Training packet through certified mail which includes a tracking number and guaranteed delivery date.

If your mailing address on the I-765 is in: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, USA Virgin Islands or West Virginia:

You will be sending your application to the the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services Dallas lockbox:

For USA Postal Service deliveries:
USA Citizenship and Immigration Services
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

For courier service deliveries (non-USA Postal Service):
USA Citizenship and Immigration Services
Attention: Adjustment of Status
2501 S. State Hwy. 121
Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

If your mailing address on the I-765 is in: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, or Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands:

You will be sending your application to the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services Phoenix lockbox:

For USA Postal Service deliveries:
USA Citizenship and Immigration Services
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

For courier service deliveries (non-USA Postal Service):
USA Citizenship and Immigration Services
Attention: Adjustment of Status
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

eShipGlobal mailing option

eShipGlobal offers a shipping service for international students sending their Optional Practical Training application to the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services. eShipGlobal allows students to send Optional Practical Training applications to the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services offices. Students can choose their carrier (UPS, FedEx, or United States Postal Service), what type of delivery (next day, 2-day, etc.) and ship at discounted rates.

This service is not a Northeastern service. All inquiries should be directed to eShipGlobal directly.

Northeastern does not ship Optional Practical Training applications to the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services for students.

For more information on how to use this service, please see these instructions: eShipGlobal Instructions

OPT document processing

The Office of Global Services requires 10 business days to process a request for Post Optional Practical Training recommendation. The USA Citizenship and Immigration Services generally requires around 100 days to process an Employment Authorization Document card.

Submitting documents to Immigration Services:

  • You should receive a receipt notice I-797C from the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Once your Optional Practical Training is approved, expect to first receive an approval notice and then an Employment Authorization Document card
  • You may not work until you receive your Employment Authorization Document card and you may only work within the dates specified on the Employment Authorization Document. NOTE: The Employment Authorization Document card, not your approval notice, is your work authorization documentation)

Travel while on OPT

Students on Post Optional Practical Training can travel abroad. In order to re-enter the USA, the following documents are required:

  • A passport that is valid for 6 months from the date of your return to the USA
  • A valid F-1 student visa stamp
  • A valid I-20 with Optional Practical Training recommendation and a valid travel signature on page 2*

*Travel signatures are valid for 6 months while you are on Optional Practical Training.

  • A valid Employment Authorization Document card
  • Proof of employment (an offer letter can be used)

Given the information above, travel before an Employment Authorization Document has been approved and received is not advisable. NOTE: If you depart the USA before your Optional Practical Training application has been filed, received, and receipted by the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services, you become ineligible to apply for Post-Optional Practical Training if your program has ended.

Video: Reporting Requirements

Important reminders

  • The USA Citizenship and Immigration Services must receive the Optional Practical Training application within 30 days of the Optional Practical Training recommendation by the Office of Global Services; if the application is not received by the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services within 30 days after the issuance of the Optional Practical Training I-20, the application will be denied. (THIS IS THE MOST COMMON REASON FOR OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING DENIAL)
  • Do not mail in your application so that the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services receives it more than 90 days before your program end date or more than 60 days after the program end date. (Applications received outside of these times will be denied)
  • If your entire application is returned to you (in plastic), consult with an Office of Global Services Advisor before resubmitting the application; your application may not be considered “received” and you may need a new I-20 with Optional Practical Training recommendation
  • Do not submit Optional Practical Training application to the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services prior to obtaining I-20 with Optional Practical Training recommendation
  • Do not wait for a job offer in order to start the Optional Practical Training application process
  • Make sure that the address on your Optional Practical Training application is valid for receiving mail at all times during Optional Practical Training processing

Completing I-765 for Post-Completion OPT

The numbers below correspond to the numbered items on Form I-765. This form may be downloaded from uscis.gov.  Please refer to USCIS I-765 Instructions.  Below are some general guidelines for completing Form I-765 for Post-Completion OPT.  Please read the instructions for each item and write the information on the form, printing clearly and legibly or you may type the form online and print it.

Part 1. Reason for Applying

Field 1: I am applying for… – Unless you are applying for a replace of a lost EAD card, you should indicate that you are applying for “Initial permission to accept employment.”

Part 2. Information About You

Field 1: Your Name – Print clearly or type your family name in capital letters, followed by the first or given and middle name(s) if any.  Write your name as it appears in your passport.

Fields 2-4: Other Names Used – Fill this out only if you have used other names on official documents or if you have a maiden name (name used prior to marriage, usually applies to women who have married).

Fields 5-6: Mailing Address – The address you enter here should be the address to which correspondence can be sent for the next 3-4 months during the OPT application period. If you are providing an address where you do no reside, please provide the name of the person who resides at that address in Field 5.a. In Care of Name.

Address errors (i.e. undeliverable address, moving before OPT is approved, etc.) are a common cause for delay of or failure to receive the OPT EAD.

Field 7: Physical Address – If different from mailing address, the address where you reside in the U.S.

Field 8: Alien Registration Number – If you have an A-Number, enter it here.

Field 9: USCIS Online Account Number – If you have created an online account with USCIS, enter your account number here.

Field 10: Gender – Check the appropriate box.

Field 11: Marital Status – Check the appropriate box.

Field 12: Previously filed I-765? – Check no if you have never applied to the USCIS for F-1 OPT or other work authorization.  If you have previously applied, check yes.

Field 13: Has the Social Security Administration (SSA) ever officially issued a Social Secuirty card to you? – Check the appropriate box.

  • If yes, skip to Item 13b.
  • If no, skip to Item 14.

Field 14: Do you want the SSA to issue you a Social Security card? – Check the appropriate box. If you check no, skip to Item 18.a. You will not receive a Social Security card.

Field 15: Consent for Disclosure – Only answer Item 15 if you checked yes in Item 14. Complete Fields 16-17.

Field 18: Your Country or Countries of Citizenship or Nationality – List all countries where you are currently a citizen or national. The country of citizenship should match what appears on the applicant’s I-20.

Field 19: Place of Birth – Provide city, state, and country of applicant’s birth.

Field 20: Date of Birth – Enter the numerical date of birth as month/day/year (4 digits). For example, June 29, 1988 should be entered as 06/29/1988.

Field 21: Information About Your Last Arrival in the U.S.  – Enter the 11-digit I-94 number that is found on the electronic I-94. It is called “Admission (I-94) Record Number.”

Field 22: Date of Your Last Arrival Into the U.S. – Enter the numerical date of latest entry as month/day/year (4 digits).

Field 23: Place of your Last Arrival Into the U.S. – Enter the place of last entry. The place of entry is often written in three letter abbreviations, such as BOS for Boston and SFR for San Francisco.

Field 24: Immigration Status at Your Last Arrival – If F-1 appears on your I-94, enter student.  If you entered in another status and changed your non-immigrant status in the U.S. and have not travelled outside of the U.S. since receiving your change of status, please indicate the status you held upon initial entry into the U.S.

Field 25: Current Immigration Status – Enter student.

Field 26: Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Number – Enter the 10-digit SEVIS ID starting with N that is found on the top left of your I-20.

Field 27: Eligibility Category – Enter the appropriate code for the work authorization category you are requesting.

  • Pre-OPT is (c) (3) (A)
  • Post-OPT is (c) (3) (B)
  • STEM OPT is (c) (3) (C)

Fields 28-31: Eligibility category specific questions. Skip to Part 3.

Part 3. Applicant’s Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, Certification, and Signature

Fields 1-2: Applicant’s Statement – Check Item 1.a. unless an interpreter translated the form for you or another person prepared the form on your behalf. You should not check Item 1.b. nor Item 2 if you are filing on your own without the help of an interpreter or another person.

Fields 3-5: Applicant’s Contact Information – Provide requested contact information.

Field 6: Select this box if you are a Salvadoran or Guatemalan national eligible for benefits under the AVC settlement agreement  – Check box if applicable.

Field 7: Applicant’s Signature – Acknowledge Applicant’s Declaration and Certification by providing your signature and date.

Parts 4-5 – These sections should only be completed if you have an interpreter translate the form for you or another person complete the form on your behalf. You should not complete this section if you are filing on your own without the help of an interpreter or another person.

Part 6. Additional Information – Use this extra space to provide any additional information required on the application.