North Central College - Naperville, IL

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training

Under your F-1 status and after you have been lawfully enrolled in a program on a full time basis for one academic year, you are eligible to receive 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) for each training level (Bachelors, Masters & PhD). OPT is also available to F-1 students in a Study Abroad program if they have attended at least one full academic year enrolled in a full course of study in the U.S. prior to studying abroad. This training time may be used after graduation. You will not be granted more than 12 months of OPT time after each training level, unless you are a student in the STEM fields.


  • The employment must be directly related to your major field of study and it must be appropriate for someone having your level of education.
  • You must have been in lawful status for at least 9 months (one academic year) prior to applying.
  • You DO NOT need a job offer to apply for OPT.
  • You must still have OPT time available. If you have used more than 12 months of full-time CPT, you are NOT ELIGIBLE!
  • ESL student are not eligible for OPT!
  • You will receive a maximum of 12 months of OPT for each educational level (Bachelors, Masters, Ph.D.)
  • Extensions are only available for students graduating with STEM degrees (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)

Types of OPT Authorization

Pre-Completion: Part-time, prior to program completion
Post-Completion: Full-time, following completion of studies

STEM Extension: Full-time, one time 17 month extension of a post completion OPT.

  • Must apply during your last 90 days of Post-completion OPT
  • Degree must be in qualifying major from the fields of Science Engineering Technology or Mathematics
  • Must work for an E-Verify Employer

Please set up an appointment with Jesus Velasco, International Student Advisor, in the Office of International Programs.

Travel on OPT

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 US following OPT approval, the following documents are required:

  • Valid Passport
  • Valid F-1 Visa
  • Valid EAD card
  • I-20 signed for travel within the past 6 months
  • Employment letter (stating: start dates, hours, and duties)
  • F-1 Work Authorization

Bring the following to your advising appointment:

Bring the following to the International Office

  • Completed Form I-765 (below)
  • All original Form I-20s, passport, Form I-94 and copies of any previous EADs (work cards)
  • Check or money order for $380 made payable to: Department of Homeland Security
  • Two recent, passport-style photos on white background. The photos must be 2 x 2 inches; the images must be 1 inch from the hair to the chin and 1.25 inch from eye height to the bottom of the photo. Your name and I-94 number must be printed in pencil on the back of the photos. For an example photo, see
  • Completed Academic Advisor recommendation form (below). If you are double-majoring, please be sure to bring a letter for each major.The International Student Advisor will review your documentation and recommend authorization for a period of up to one year. The Office of International Programs will return your application to you to be mailed to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration and Services for processing.

After Applying for OPT

Within two weeks of applying, you should receive a receipt notice (Form I-797) which includes a filing number and status information. This number can be used to check your application status online at the USCIS website.

Approximately 90 days after USCIS receives your application, you should receive an approval message on the website. Allow for approximately 3 weeks for the card to be mailed to the Office of International Programs. You will be notified by email that we have received your EAD card.

You may only begin working after you have received your card AND your start date has been reached.

Reporting Requirements

While you are not required to have a job offer to apply for OPT, you are only allowed 90 days of unemployment. In order to keep track of these days you are required to report your employment to the Office of International Programs. You must email within 10 days of your employment change. Please send the following information:

  • Your full name
  • Your complete address
  • The name of your employer
  • The complete address of your employer
  • Your Start date
  • Your Supervisor’s name and contact information

If you change your residential address, you need to complete the form AR-11 and send it in to United Sates Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


[Academic Advisor Recommendation Form]

[U.S. Citizenship and immigration Services]

[I-765 Application for Employment Authorization]

[I-797 & EAD Example]

17 Month STEM Extension

Recipients of bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in certain STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields can apply to USCIS for a one-time 17-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 29 months). To be eligible for the extension, you must be engaged in an unexpired authorized period of post-completion OPT with en employer registered in E-Verify. The STEM Designated Degree Program List consists of select fields in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, please consult with the international student advisor for more information. 

If eligible, you may request a new I-20 from the international student advisor recommending the STEM Extension of OPT. Please e-mail five months in advance of the expiry of your current EAD card for an application and instructions. Once the international student advisor completes your new I-20 recommending the STEM Extension of your OPT, you may submit your request to the government for their approval as early as four months in advance of and no later than the expiration of your current EAD card.