Services for International Students and Scholars

Post-Completion OPT

Eligibility

Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit available to those in valid F-1 student status. It is 12 months of work authorization granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to F-1 students for the purpose of gaining practical experience directly related to their program of study. The Office of Global Services (OGS) first recommends OPT and the student then applies to USCIS for work authorization, which is authorized in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card). Post OPT 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 OPT upon completion of each higher degree level. Only one Post 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 valid F-1 student status
  • You have studied 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 OPT
  • You have completed all coursework but are in final stages of thesis/dissertation
  • You have not already departed the U.S. after the program completion date

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

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 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 their own business. Talk to 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 STEM OPT section for more details

Travel While on OPT

Students on Post OPT can travel abroad. In order to re-enter the United States, the following documents are required:

  • A passport that is valid for 6 months from the date of your return to the United States
  • A valid F-1 student visa stamp
  • 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 card
  • Proof of employment (an offer letter can be used)

 

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

When to apply

You may apply for Post-Completion OPT work authorization no earlier than 90 days prior to your program completion date. For immigration purposes, program completion date corresponds with the last term/semester of enrollment, not necessarily the date of the graduation ceremony. Post-Completion OPT applications cannot be submitted later than 60 days after the program completion date (i.e. during the 60 day grace period). In this case, it is highly recommended that students submit paperwork with the OGS no later than one (1) month after the new I-20 end date.

OPT APPLICATION TIMELINE

How to choose OPT Start Dates

If you have not used any Pre-OPT time, you can 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 60 day grace period, use the latest date possible (59th day of grace period) for your OPT start date

 

If you choose an earlier OPT 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 U.S.

 

If you choose a later OPT start date:

PRO – You have less of a chance to be unemployed for 90 days and be required to leave the U.S.

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 OPT application to USCIS close to your program end date or during your grace period in order to postpone your OPT start date as late as possible:

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

CON – OPT start date will be uncertain – OPT 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 OPT (OPT end date must be within 14 months of program end date.)

 

REMINDERIf there is a gap between your completion date & OPT start date, you have no work authorization during the gap!

How to apply

Step 1: Submit Post-OPT I-20 request E-form through myOGS

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

 

Step 2: Send the documents listed below to USCIS:

  • Original I-765 – please refer to the tab at the end of this section
  • 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 I-94
  • Copy of previous EAD (front and back) – if applicable
  • $410 check, money order or bank check made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Two passport photos with white background (lightly print name and SEVIS ID 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)

Where to mail your documents

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 one of the following addresses depending on where you live (the address you put on Form I-765). It is recommended that you mail your OPT packet through certified mail which includes a tracking number and guaranteed delivery date.
If your mailing address on 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, U.S. Virgin Islands or West Virginia

You will be sending your application to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox:

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
USCIS
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

For courier service deliveries (non-USPS):
USCIS
Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121
Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

 

 

If your mailing address on 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 USCIS Phoenix Lockbox:

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
USCIS
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

For courier service deliveries (non-USPS):
USCIS
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

eShipGlobal Mailing Option

eShipGlobal offers a shipping service for international students sending their OPT application to USCIS. eShipGlobal allows students to send OPT applcations to USCIS offices. Students can choose their carrier (UPS, FedEx, or USPS), 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 OPT applications to USCIS for students. 

For More Information on how to use this service please see the instructions linked below:

eShipGlobal Instructions

Processing Time

The OGS requires 10 business days to process a request for Post OPT recommendation. USCIS generally requires 90 days to process an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.

USCIS will not expedite OPT requests before the 90 day processing time has elapsed.

If you receive your EAD and there are errors on your card, please call the USCIS Customer Service line at 1.800.375.5283 to rectify any mistakes.

What happens after I submit my documents to USCIS?

  • You should receive a receipt notice from USCIS
  • Once your OPT is approved, expect to first receive an approval notice and then an EAD card
  • You may not work until you receive your EAD card and you may only work within the dates specified on the EAD (note: the EAD card, not your approval notice, is your work authorization documentation)
  • If there are any errors on your EAD card, call USCIS Customer Service at 1 (800) 375-5283

Important reminders and most common application mistakes

  • USCIS must receive the OPT application within 30 days of the OPT recommendation by the OGS; if the application is not received by USCIS within 30 days after the issuance of OPT I-20, the application will be denied.  THIS IS THE MOST COMMON REASON FOR OPT DENIAL!
  • 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 (in plastic), 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 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

Suggestions for Completing Form 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.

 

□     Unless you are applying for a replacement of a lost EAD card, you should indicate that you are applying for “Permission to accept employment”.

  1. 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.
  2. Other names: 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).
  3. US Mailing Address: The address you enter here should be the address to which correspondence can be sent for the next three or four months during the OPT application period.  If you are using someone else’s address, put “c/o…person’s name”.  For example, “c/o John Smith” – “care of John Smith”.  The post office will not deliver government mail if the name of the person on the mail is not on the post box as well.  Address errors are a common cause of delay or failure to receive OPT EAD.
  4. Citizenship: The country of citizenship should match what appears on the applicant’s I-20.
  5. Place of Birth: Enter the city, state and country in which the applicant was born.
  6. Date of Birth: Enter the numerical date of birth as month, day, and year (4 digit) e.g., June 29, 1988 should be entered as 06/29/1988.
  7. Gender: Check the appropriate box.
  8. Marital status: Check the appropriate box.
  9. Social Security Number: Leave this item blank if you have not yet received a Social Security Number. Before beginning OPT work, you will need to obtain a Social Security Number.
  10. I-94 Number: Enter the 11-digit I-94 number, which can be found on the electronic I-94. It is called “Admission (I-94) Record Number.” If you still have the older version of the I-94 which is a small white card, you can find the I-94 number at the top left side of the card. If there is a handwritten number, enter this one instead of the pre-printed one.
  11. Previous Employment Authorization: Check “no” if you have never applied to the USCIS for F-1 OPT or other employment.  If you have previously applied, check “yes”.  The USCIS Center serving the northeast region of the U.S. is the “Vermont Service Center”, though many OPT applications are processed at the “Potomac Service Center”.  Enter the dates of employment authorized indicated on the Employment Authorization Card; under “Results” enter “Granted” or “Denied” and if granted, attach a photocopy of your EAD (Employment Authorization Document).  If the application is still pending, put “pending”.
  12. Date of Last Entry into U.S.: Enter the date of last entry into the US.
  13. Place of Last Entry into the U.S.: The place of entry is often written in three letter abbreviations such as “BOS” for Boston and “SFR” for San Francisco.  Enter the place and date of last entry.
  14. Status of Last Entry: 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 entering the U.S.
  15. Current Immigration Status: Enter “student”.
  16. Eligibility Categories: For Post-Completion OPT, enter the following codes in the three consecutive parentheses: (c) (3) (B)   Note: Pre-OPT and STEM have different codes

Certification: Please make sure you sign your name by hand (it cannot be typed), enter your telephone number, and enter the date on which you have signed the form.

Reporting Requirements

 The following must be reported to the OGS within 10 days of any changes. Updates can be submitted electronically via the links below:

  • Address Updates  
  • Employment Updates (to be submitted only after OPT EAD is received)
    • Name of company
    • Address of company – This is the address from where you are conducting your work
    • Start date with company
    • Description of how work is related to your course of study/major
    • Unemployment – If you work and then become unemployed for more than two weeks, this must be reported to the OGS by completing OPT Employer Update e-form and providing the correct end date.

It is student’s responsibility to provide employment information to OGS. If no employment is provided within the first 90 days on the EAD card, the student’s SEVIS record may be terminated automatically.

Additional Information that must be reported to OGS

  •  A decision to discontinue OPT and depart the U.S.—Submit the Request to Complete OPT & SEVIS Record along with a copy of a flight itinerary indicating you have/will depart the U.S.
  • Change of status to a status other than F-1
  • A decision to begin a new program of study at Northeastern or transfer to another school in the US

The 90 Day Unemployment Rule

During the authorized Post-OPT dates on your EAD card, you are allowed to be unemployed for up to 90 days.  This 90 days is cumulative. If you exceed 90 days of unemployment, then you are considered out of status; there is no additional grace period after these 90 days.  If employment is not updated to OGS within 90 days of the start date on the EAD card, then your SEVIS record may be auto-terminated.  It is your responsibility to keep a personal record of all OPT activity.

Invalidating Your OPT

 Your Post OPT will be invalidated if you:

  • Start a new program of study
  • Transfer out to a new college or university
  • Change your status
  • Enter the U.S. using any visa status other than an F-1
  • Violate your immigration status

My application was rejected and returned to me because of a missing signature on I-765 or an issue with check/money order. What do I do?

Do NOT mail the application yet. Contact OGS and make an appointment with an OGS advisor. You will most likely need a new OPT recommendation and will need to reapply to USCIS.  You cannot resubmit your application if there is any chance your I-20 with OPT recommendation will be more than 30 days old when it is received by USCIS; this would result in a denial.

My application has been pending a long time; can I do anything to speed up the process?

Unfortunately, there is no expedite processing of OPT applications at USCIS. You may request a service request with USCIS, if your application is pending for 75 days or more. See details from here

I received an Request For Evidence (RFE) from USCIS. What do I do?

You are required to respond to RFE by the deadline specified on the letter. If you can prepare document(s) they ask for, you may respond on your own. If you have any questions, you may make an appointment with an OGS advisor.

How do I change my mailing address while my OPT application is pending with USCIS?

While your application is still pending with USCIS, follow the instructions below:

https://egov.uscis.gov/coa/displayCOAForm.do

How do I withdraw my OPT application?

If your application is still pending with USCIS, and decide not to pursue OPT, you may withdraw your application.  If you decide to withdraw your OPT application, please make an appointment to talk to an OGS Advisor.  You will need to mail a letter to request withdrawal of your application to the USCIS along with the receipt notice.

I don’t have a Social Security Number. When can I apply for one?

You may apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) as of the start date on your EAD – See Social Security Number (SSN) Instructions.

I did not get my EAD card in the mail after receiving the approval notice. What do I do?

Find your tracking number of your mail from USCIS case status, contact USPS to see if they can locate it if it already says “delivered” status.

 

If your EAD is lost in the mail, you will have to apply for a replacement of EAD by submitting the following documents to the lockbox, as you did for your initial application:

  • Letter explaining what happened to previously issued card (include police report if applicable)
  • I-765 (check the box that indicates that you are applying for a “Replacement” card)
  • G-1145
  • $410 check, money order or bank check made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Copies of previous I-20s
  • Copy of F-1 visa
  • Copy of passport
  • Passport Photos
  • Approval Notice of OPT/STEM

What happens if my EAD card has incorrect information on it?

If your EAD card was processed by the Potomac Service Center (PSC):

If your Form I-765 was approved by the PSC and your EAD contains incorrect information due to USCIS error, you must return the original card along with a detailed explanation of the error and supporting documentation to the PSC at:

Potomac Service Center
U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
2200 Potomac Center Drive, Stop 2425
Arlington, VA 20598-2425

In these cases, you do not need to submit a new Form I-765 and filing fee. The PSC will issue a corrected EAD within 30 days of receiving your EAD that contains incorrect information due to USCIS error.

If you return your PSC-approved EAD card and the PSC determines that your card contains incorrect information that is not due to USCIS error, the PSC will return the EAD card to you. In this case, you will have to follow the process detailed in the Replacement EAD section of the Employment Authorization Document page on order to have your card corrected.

If you do not find the information you need through our online services and need further assistance, you may contact our National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 or 1-800-767-1833 (TDD for the hearing impaired).

 

If your EAD card was processed a Service Center other than Potomac:

 

Call the USCIS customer service at 1-800-375-5283 or 1-800-767-1833 and ask for instructions.

 

https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/contact-us/national-customer-service-center

My OPT was denied. What can I do?

If your OPT is denied, please wait to receive your denial notice in the mail.  Once you receive it, make an appointment to meet with an OGS Advisor to discuss your situation.

What do I do if I cannot find a job?

If you cannot find a job within 90 days of the start date of your EAD card, then you have surpassed your allotted time of unemployment and it is recommended that you depart the US.

Can I work for multiple employers

Yes, you can work for more than one employer, as long as all employment is related to the major for which you obtained OPT.

Is there a limit to how many hours per week I can work on OPT?

You must work a minimum of 20 hours per week while on OPT, but there is not a limit as to how many hours per week you can work.

What do I do if I lose my EAD card?

If your card was lost or stolen while you are on OPT, we advise that you apply for a replacement card.  You will have to apply for a replacement of EAD by submitting the following documents to the lockbox, as you did for your initial application:

  • Letter explaining what happened to previously issued card (include police report if applicable)
  • I-765 (check the box that indicates that you are applying for a “Replacement” card)
  • G-1145
  • $410 check, money order or bank check made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Copies of previous I-20s
  • Copy of F-1 visa
  • Copy of passport
  • Passport Photos
  • Approval Notice of OPT/STEM
  • Copy of EAD (if available)

What documents do I need to renew my F-1 visa during OPT?

If you travel during your OPT period and your F-1 visa has expired, you will need to obtain a new F-1 visa.  While on OPT, you are still considered to be an F-1 student.  Expect to show similar documents as the first time you applied for your visa (check with your local US embassy for requirements).  Additionally, you should have your valid OPT EAD card, I-20 with OPT recommendation on page 2 and travel signature within 6 months, passport valid within 6 months, and a job offer or proof of employment.

Can I study while I am on OPT?

Studying while on OPT may be permissible as long as primary activity remains Practical Training.  Moving to a higher degree level would automatically invalidate your OPT (ie. If you start studying at the PhD level while working on OPT based on a Master’s degree, you would invalidate your OPT)

I have had OPT from a first Master’s Degree; can I do OPT for a second Master’s degree?

If you have obtained 12 months of Post-Completion OPT at the Master’s level and then go on to do a second Master’s degree, you will not be eligible for any further OPT authorization.  You are only allowed 12 months per degree level.  If you know that you will do two Master’s programs, it may be possible to split up your OPT between programs if you plan ahead.  Consult with an OGS Advisor if you wish to discuss this.

Can I travel while on OPT?

Students on Post OPT can travel abroad. In order to re-enter the United States, the following documents are required:

  • A passport that is valid for 6 months from the date of your return to the United States
  • A valid F-1 student visa stamp
  • 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 card
  • Proof of employment (an offer letter can be used)

 

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