Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a type of employment authorization for students in F-1 status who wish to engage in off-campus employment in their field of study during and/or after their course of study. No job offer is necessary to apply, but students must meet the eligibility requirements and obtain a new Form I-20 from OIS with an OPT recommendation before being able to apply. Students submit their applications to the USCIS and USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to the student. This EAD authorizes the student to engage in temporary employment in their major field of study for up to 12 months anywhere in the US. Most F-1 students at NC State University wish to take advantage of this benefit and will apply for their EAD 2 to 3 months before they graduate.

The OPT approval process generally takes 90 days after it has been receipted by USCIS. Students/graduates are not legally eligible to begin employment under OPT until the EAD is approved and in the hands of the student AND the start date for employment falls within the validity dates of the EAD. It is the responsibility of the student to apply early enough to the OPT approved and the EAD in-hand to meet the desired employment start date. In recent years, USCIS has generally taken to full 90 days to process an OPT application. Students who apply for OPT less than 90 days before their program completion run the risk of not having the EAD before they graduate. In some cases, they put themselves in the position on being ineligible for employment for many weeks after they have completed their program. Students should apply for OPT as early as possible in their final term of enrollment at NC State.
USCIS also offers a request for inquiry regarding a pending petition. Students may follow the instructions on the USCIS web page to request an inquiry and update from USCIS regarding a pending petition. OIS is not involved in the processing of any petitions filed with USCIS and any questions regarding the inquiry process need to be sent to USCIS.

See OPT Eligibility requirements

  • Students must have been enrolled full-time for at least nine months (two consecutive semesters)
  • Students must have completed at least one semester at NC State
  • Students must be maintaining lawful F-1 status
  • Students must be in good academic standing
  • Students must be making normal progress toward their degree (or have completed it)
  • Students must obtain the recommendation of their Academic Adviser (for undergraduate students) or Director of Graduate Program (for graduate students)
  • Students must not have already engaged in full-time OPT for that particular level of study
  • Students must have not worked for 12 months or more on full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Students must have obtained a new Form I-20 with OPT recommendation from OIS
  • Students must seek employment directly related to their major

How to apply to Optional Practical Training

STEP 1: Access the online OPT session at your convenience.

STEP 2: Take a short quiz after the online OPT session.

After the completion of the online OPT session, you will be directed to a quiz. You will need to pass the quiz and print the confirmation email showing successful completion of the OPT session and quiz. This results page is part of your OPT application paperwork.

STEP 3: Complete the OPT Application form.

STEP 4: Attend a document drop-off session

Bring the required OPT materials listed below to OIS for a document drop-off session on Monday or Thursday at 9:30 a.m. During this session, an OIS advisor will go over the OPT application process, as well as your responsibilities while on OPT. Students who have a question about the OPT application materials may come to OIS to meet with an advisor during the walk-in hours.

In order for OIS to issue the OPT I-20, you must submit the items listed below, during a drop-off session:

Students will receive an e-mail from OIS in 10 business days once the new I-20 has been processed. Collect and sign the new I-20 from OIS when complete.

Additionally, OIS conducts sessions twice per week for the purpose of reviewing students’ completed OPT application materials: on Monday and Thursday at 1 pm.  Students should only attend a completed OPT application review session if they have already followed all of the above steps related to the OPT application and are ready to send the completed OPT application to USCIS.

If you would like to attend a completed OPT application review session, please follow these steps:

1. Assemble your complete OPT application package.
2. Bring your complete application package to OIS on Monday or Thursday at 1 pm
3. Select “OPT Final Application Review” as the reason for your visit when you sign in on the computer.

STEP 5: Mail your application to USCIS.

Express mail the completed application to USCIS. USCIS requires that the OPT application include:

  • Form G-1145 (optional for students who wish to receive electronic notification that their application has been accepted.)
  • Original I-765 (Sample of a completed form I-765Do not submit the I-765 electronically, print and mail all application materials to USCIS!
  • Check or money order for $410 payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” stapled to the first page of your I-765 
  • Two passport-style photographs. Make sure to meet the photo specifications listed on page 13 of USCIS Instructions for I-765.
  • Copy of the OPT I-20 (signed by OIS within 30 days)
  • Copies of all previous I-20s
  • Photocopies of the I-94 (front and back)
  • Photocopy of your most recent visa stamp
  • Photocopy of your passport (ID page and/or expiration page). If your visa was stamped in your old, expired passport, send a copy of the ID and/or expiration page of that passport as well.

STEP 6: Do job interviews, if you don’t have a position yet.

Interview with companies while waiting (a job offer is not required to apply and does not expedite an approval.Processing by USCIS can take 2-3 months)

Update your job status with OIS

Once you receive your EAD card from USCIS, submit a scanned copy of the EAD to ois@ncsu.edu. Update your job information on the OPT Employment Validation form when you start, end employment or have a change in employment situation, address or name:

  • To update or verify your employment information, click the “Submit OPT Employment Validation” icon above to access the OPT Employment Validation form.
  • If you have multiple employers at one time, you must complete the OPT Employment Validation form for each one of the employers. 
  • If you change employment, you will need to submit two OPT Employment Validation forms – one to report your new employment and one to indicate the end date of your previous employment.
  • You should collect and retain documentation (offer letters, time sheets, etc.) for all employment while on OPT. OIS does not require you to submit this documentation, but you may need it when applying for future benefits or changes of status.
  • Once you submit your updated employment information using the OPT Employment Validation form, OIS will update your SEVIS record to reflect your employment. 
  • OPT employment information can only be entered into SEVIS after your OPT has started. Your records will be updated after your OPT start date.
  • You are also responsible for updating your residential address in MyPack portal.
  • If you change your immigration status, please send a copy of proof of such change (e.g. USCIS  Approval Notice) to OIS> 

If you have additional questions regarding OPT, please take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions.