optional practical training (OPT)

International Student and Scholar Services will run OPT workshops throughout each semester. Please check the OPT workshop schedule for specific dates and times. If you are unable to attend the workshop, you may contact our office to schedule an individual appointment with an ISSS advisor. Workshops will last about an hour and latecomers will not be admitted.

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows you to work one year after completion of studies.  Graduate students may apply for OPT after finishing all coursework but prior to thesis deposit.  Employment should directly relate to your field of study and correspond with your education level.  No job offer is needed to apply.  However, OPT applicants are only allowed a total of 90 days unemployment during their initial 12 month OPT allocation

Eligibility Check 

  • Are you completing the degree (or finishing your coursework)?
  • Have you studied for a minimum of two semesters, directly prior to your completion?
  • Are you maintaining your F-1 status?
  • Have you complied with your registration requirements for previous CPT?
  • Do you have a valid passport?

Dates and Deadlines

  • You can begin to apply no sooner than 90 days before your program end date but no later than 60 days after your program end date.
  • Application processing time is approximately 90 days.
  • OPT can begin the day after or up to 60 days after your program end date.

IMPORTANT: Application MUST be received by USCIS within 30 days of ISSS creating a new I-20 or OPT will be denied. If it has been more than 30 days since your OPT I-20 was issued and you have not mailed off your application, please contact ISSS.

*** If it has been more than 30 days since your I-20 was requested, and you have not yet mailed off your application, please contact ISSS. ISSS will cancel the current request. You must then complete and submit the OPT Re-request e-form through iStart. Please do not submit a Reprint Request for this purpose.

Application Process

Please submit an OPT I-20 request e-form through iSTART to receive your new I-20 with ISSS recommendation for OPT. Click here to access the OPT Request eform. You will also need to pay the $100 OPT Management Fee before your new I-20 can be processed. Please click here to make your payment.


Application materials to mail to USCIS:

  1. Personal Check or money order for $410.00, payable to the “US Department of Homeland Security”.
  2. Two photographs. (*Do not wear glasses*). Lightly write your name and SEVIS ID on the back of the photos. Place the photos in a clear Ziploc-type bag.  (photo specifications below)
  3. Form I-765
  4. Photocopy of pages 1 & 2 of your new I-20 with the ISSS recommendation for OPT
  5. Photocopy of the front and back of your I-94 card or download and print out the electronic admission record from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov.
  6. Photocopy of the identity page and visa page from your passport, including passport expiration date.
       o If applicable…
          • Photocopy of any previous I-20s with CPT recommendations from current level of study.
          • Photocopy of the front and back of your last EAD & I-797 Notice of Action.

Mailing Locations:


For Certified Mail send to:
US Citizenship and Immigration Services
Phoenix Lockbox
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ, 85036

For Express/Overnight Mail send to:
US Citizenship and Immigration Services
Phoenix Lockbox, Attn AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S, Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ, 85034

Note: Mail by certified mail with a Return Receipt Requested or Express/Overnight with Delivery Confirmation. Make photocopies of all documents you send for your records. DO NOT SUBMIT THE APPLICATION ELECTRONICALLY.

Color Photo Specifications     

  • Your photograph must be:
  • 2x2 inches in size: if the image area on the photograph is too large or too small, the photo cannot be used
  • Both photographs must be identical 
  • Taken within the past 30 days, showing current appearance 
  • Full face, front view with a plain white or off-white background; facial features MUST be identifiable 
  • Between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head 
  • Taken in normal street attire
  • Uniforms should not be worn in photographs except religious attire that is worn daily.
  • Do not wear a hat or headgear that obscures the hair or hairline.
  • Prescription eyeglasses should NOT be worn in your photograph
  • If you normally wear a hearing device, wig or similar articles, they should be worn for your picture.
  • Dark glasses or nonprescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless you need them for medical reasons. A medical certificate may be required. 

  • More details on color photo specifications can be found here.

Maintaining F-1 status while on OPT

  • Students with a program end date in August are limited to holding a 50% assistantship in summer prior to program end date, and must register for a full course load or have a reduced course load in place for that semester.
  • Check with ISSS prior to international travel - travel endorsements need renewing every six months whilst on OPT
  • Keep ISSS updated with any changes in home address, employer (including being unemployed), and email address by visiting https://sunapsis.illinois.edu within 10 days of the change.
  • While on OPT, you have a 90 day limit on the amount of time you can be unemployed.
  • Prior to leaving UIUC, update UI-Integrate with your preferred non-UIUC e-mail address.
  • You will not be able to hold student employment on campus after your program end date. This includes hourly and graduate assistant work done on the UIUC campus. As ending your program early can result in the loss of your tuition waiver, we recommend you review the Graduate College policy on tuition waivers before shortening your I-20: http://www.grad.illinois.edu/gradhandbook/2/chapter7/tuition-waivers
  • Do not withdraw your registration after you apply for or receive OPT.  If you do, ISSS must terminate your F-1 record.
  • Once you receive your Notice of Action Form (2-3 weeks after applying) you can use the case number and provided web address to follow the status of your application.
  • You may not begin your OPT employment until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and the effective date on the card has been reached. 
  • Once you receive your EAD card, you should provide ISSS with a copy, so that we can ensure your SEVIS record is properly updated and avoid cancellation of your OPT.  If you are no longer in the C-U area, you can email a scanned version of the card to isss@illinois.edu or fax a copy to 217-244-0530.
  • If you are a beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition requesting an employment start date of October 1st of the following fiscal year your work authorization under OPT will automatically extend to October 1st. However, the extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on your behalf.  If your status has been extended, you are responsible for reporting this information to ISSS so we can ensure your SEVIS record has been updated with the extension.

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