Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (Post-OPT) is a type of employment authorization adjudicated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is available to eligible F-1 students for the purpose of gaining practical experience directly related to their program of study. A Post-OPT application first requires an OPT recommendation on a student's Form I-20, then a timely application to USCIS for final adjudication. If successful, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Eligibility

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

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

  • You have maintained a valid F-1 student status
  • You have been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year
  • You have completed fewer than 365 days of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) at the degree level for which you are applying for OPT
  • You have completed all coursework (may be in final stages of thesis/dissertation)
  • You are inside the U.S.

Note: If you depart the U.S. before your OPT application has been filed, received and receipted by the USCIS, you become ineligible to apply for Post-Completion OPT if your program has ended.

Eligibility Video »

Post-OPT Application Timeline

You may apply to USCIS for Post-Completion OPT work authorization no earlier than 90 days prior to your program completion date. Post-OPT applications cannot be submitted to USCIS later than 60 days after the program completion date (i.e. during the 60-day grace period).

OPT Application Timeline

Important reminder about Your Program 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 OPT 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.

PhD student Program Completion Dates

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

Choosing Your Post-OPT Start Date

If you have not used any Pre-Completion OPT time, you may request up to 12-months of Post-Completion OPT. You must request a start date within the 60-day grace period of your program. You select your own start and end date for OPT (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 OPT
  • 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 OPT start date

Reminder: Students are not eligible to begin working until the Post-OPT has been approved by USCIS, they have received their EAD, and the start date on the EAD has arrived.

Application Timeline & Start Date Selection Video »

Note for PhD Students

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

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

If you choose to apply for Post-Completion OPT while completing thesis/dissertation:

  • You must fulfill the reporting requirements of Post-Completion OPT
  • 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-Completion OPT is expired

Application Process

(For more information, click each step below)

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

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

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

OGS requires 15 business days to process a request for Post-Completion OPT recommendation.

NEW! How F-1 Students Seeking OPT Can Avoid Form I-765 Delays

Applying Online: You may create an account with USCIS and file the Form I-765 online. Follow the instructions to File a form online, then Select the form you want to file online (I-765, Application for Employment Authorization). You do not need to upload a PDF version of the Form I-765. Follow the online instructions to prepare to submit the following documents:

  • Copy of Form I-20 with OPT recommendation on page two
    • Click here for a sample OPT recommendation on a Form I-20
    • Do not submit the Form I-765 without the I-20 with OPT recommendation. This will result in the denial of your application.
    • Please note: you must print the I-20 with OPT recommendation that has been electronically signed by the DSO, sign the bottom of Page 1 in the Student Attestation section, then scan a copy of all 3 pages of the fully signed I-20 to include with your OPT application to USCIS.
  • Copies of all previous I-20s that indicate that you were authorized for employment
  • 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 most recent electronic I-94 printout or copy of I-94 card (front and back)
  • Copy of previous Employment Authorization Document (front and back) – if applicable
  • Two passport photos with white background (photos MUST be less than 30 days old and glasses should not be worn in photo)
  • Copy of your Northeastern transcript (optional)
  • $470 OPT application fee (Payment may be made via a credit card, debit card, or bank transfer. If a credit card is used, it must be issued by a U.S. bank)

Applying by Mail: Submit the documents listed below to USCIS

  • Original paper Form I-765 – please refer to OGS’s supplemental I-765 guide for assistance
  • Original G-1145
  • Copy of new I-20 with OPT 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 most recent electronic I-94 printout or copy of I-94 card (front and back)
  • Copy of previous Employment Authorization Document (front and back) – if applicable
  • Two passport photos with white background (lightly write your name and SEVIS ID number with a pencil on the back of each photo; photos MUST be less than 30 days old and glasses should not be worn in photo)
  • $520 check, money order or bank check made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Copy of your Northeastern transcript (optional)

Mailing Your Application to USCIS (If not filing Online)

USCIS recommends filing online. However, if you choose to file your application with USCIS via a mail service, please review these instructions.

We strongly recommend that you make copies of your complete application for your records before mailing your application to USCIS.

Once you have your documents and I-20 for Post-Completion OPT and you have copied all documentation and assembled the packet, you must send it to the USCIS address below. However its always best practice to confirm the most up-to-date USCIS Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765 directly on the USCIS website. It is recommended you mail your OPT packet through certified mail which includes a tracking number and guaranteed delivery date.

Effective 01/08/2021, you will mail your application to the USCIS Chicago lockbox:

For U.S. Postal Service deliveries:

Attn: I-765 C03

P.O. Box 805373

Chicago, IL 60680-5374

For courier service deliveries (non-U.S. Postal Service: FedEx, UPS, and DHL):

USCIS

Attn: I-765 C03 (Box 805373)

131 South Dearborn – 3rd Floor

Chicago, IL 60603-5517

eShipGlobal mailing option

eShipGlobal offers a shipping service for international students sending their OPT/STEM application to USCIS. Students can choose their carrier (UPS, FedEx, or USPS) and 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.

USCIS Processing Times

After the documentation leaves the respective Lockbox, it is forwarded to the USCIS Service Center. About fifteen days after USCIS receives your application for Post-Completion OPT, you should receive a receipt notice (Form I-797) from USCIS.

What Happens After I Submit my Application to USCIS?

  • You should receive a receipt notice (Form I-797) from USCIS. You can look up your case status online using the case number.
    • If you file online you will receive this receipt notice electronically within a day or two. If you file by mail you should receive this notice within 2-weeks.
    • If you submitted the G1145 form with your application, you will be informed electronically by email and/or text
    • If you paid for your OPT fee by personal check, the back of the cashed check will have the number. You may obtain a copy of this check from your bank.
    • You may contact the USCIS call center at 800-375-5283.
  • You can check USCIS current OPT and STEM OPT estimated processing times on the USCIS website. (Select Form: “I-765” Form Category: “Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student [(c)(3)]” Service Center: “Potomac Service Center”.)
  • Once USCIS adjudicates your application and your Post-OPT is approved, expect to first receive an approval notice and then an EAD.
  • You must not work until you receive your EAD card and you may only work within the dates specified on the EAD card.
    • The EAD card, not your approval notice, is your work authorization documentation.

Note: Your application will remain in “pending” status until a decision has been made on your application (this may be a few months). Adjudication of your application is completed by USCIS. Therefore, USCIS will inform you directly of the official receipt, request for additional information, and the decision on your application. Please be aware that this is a normal processing timeframe, and regrettably, OGS is unable to assist in expediting any requests.

OGS is here to guide you if you receive any communication from USCIS that requires response (request for additional information, denial, etc.).

Important Reminders

  • USCIS must receive the OPT application within 30 days of the issuing OPT recommendation by OGS; if the application is not received by USCIS within 30 days after the issuance of the OPT I-20, the application will be denied (this is the most common reason for the denial of Post-OPT)
  • Do not mail in your application so that USCIS 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, consult with an OGS Advisor before resubmitting the application; your application may not be considered “received” and you may need a new I-20 with OPT recommendation
  • Do not submit an OPT application to USCIS prior to obtaining I-20 with OPT recommendation
  • Do not wait for a job offer in order to start the OPT application process
  • Make sure that the address on your OPT application is valid for receiving mail at all times during OPT processing
  • Students must abide by all reporting requirements while on Post-Completion OPT. 

What if I Receive a Request for Evidence (RFE)?

If USCIS determines that something in your application requires further clarification they will send you a Request for Evidence (RFE). If you receive an RFE, you are required to respond by the deadline listed on the notification. You will also need to submit a copy of the RFE to OGS via the OPT Issue Reporting e-form in OPT Central.

Once you have submitted the e-form, a Designated School Official (DSO) will review your RFE and inform you of next steps. If it is determined that no evidence is needed from OGS or from your former academic department, you will receive an email with suggestions about who can provide the requested evidence. If it is determined you need documentation from OGS or your academic department, you will receive an email stating what additional documentation will be provided.

RFE Review Process

All RFEs are unique, therefore, all supporting letters and documents are drafted based on the specific request of the RFE. OGS may have multiple RFE being reviewed simultaneously, therefore, processing times for RFEs vary based on:

  • The complexity of the RFE and number of required supporting documents
  • The number of departments that are asked to provide supporting documentation
  • The production of the PDSO Letter (the Principal Designated School Official)
  • The due date of the RFE

Employment during Post-OPT

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

The following criteria must be met when you engage in work during Post-OPT:

  • 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 OPT:

  • Paid or unpaid employment
  • Multiple employers: you may work for multiple employers while on Post-OPT. 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)
  • Volunteering: Students on Post-OPT may work as volunteers as long as the work is related to their major field of study and does not violate labor laws

Note: Guidelines for STEM employers differ; please review our STEM OPT page for more information.

Travel While on Post-OPT

Students on Post-Completion OPT are still in F-1 status and must maintain all F-1 eligibility documents in order to travel abroad. In order to re-enter the U.S., the following documents are required:

  • A passport that is valid for 6 months from the date of your return to the U.S.
  • A valid F-1 student visa
  • A valid I-20 with OPT recommendation and a valid travel signature on page 2*
    • *Travel signatures are valid for 6 months while you are on OPT.
  • A valid EAD
  • Proof of employment (an offer letter can be used)
    • If you are not currently employed, we do not recommend traveling outside of the U.S. as re-entry to the U.S. is granted at the discretion of Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Given the information above, travel before an EAD card has been approved and received is not advisable. Note: If you depart the U.S. before your OPT application has been filed, received, and receipted by the USCIS, you become ineligible to apply for Post-Completion OPT if your program has ended.

Please see OGS’ page on International Travel for more information.

Study While on Post-OPT

While recreational or avocational study is permissible during the Post-Completion OPT period, students cannot pursue a new degree-seeking program while simultaneously working on Post-Completion OPT. You should speak with a DSO in OGS to see if your studies would qualify. U.S. Federal Regulations state that employment authorization is automatically terminated when a student begins study at another education level or transfers their SEVIS record to another school.