Optional Practical Training

Spring 2020 OPT Procedures

Spring 2020 graduates who wish to apply for OPT can attend OPT drop-off sessions starting January 30th. Graduate students who will use their dissertation or thesis defense date as their program end date should attend a drop-off session no more than 100 days before their scheduled defense date.

OPT drop-off sessions are held every Monday and Thursday at 9:00 AM. Beginning February 4th, we will hold an additional drop-off session on Tuesdays at 1:00 PM for the spring semester. Please arrive 5-10 minutes early with a complete application and your student ID card as we begin promptly at the start time. Students who arrive after the session has begun or are missing application elements or signatures will be required to attend a later session.

Optional OPT review sessions are held every Monday and Thursday at 1:00 PM. Students should bring their student ID card along with their OPT application materials for guided review and questions before mailing to USCIS. You do not need your OPT I-20 to be issued to attend. Please arrive 5-10 minutes early as we will begin the session promptly at 1pm.

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 around 3-5 months after it has been receipted by USCIS. Students should consult USCIS’s Case Processing Times for the most up to date information regarding processing times and eligibility for submitting case inquiries. 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. 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.
OIS is not involved in the processing of any petitions filed with USCIS. 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 file their OPT application while they are physically present in the U.S.
  • Students must seek employment directly related to their major

How to apply for 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 must 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. OPT drop-off sessions are on Mondays and Thursdays at 9:00 AM. For the Spring 2020 semester, we will have additional sessions on Tuesdays at 1:00 PM. During this session, an OIS advisor will go over the OPT application process, as well as your responsibilities while on OPT.  Sessions are generally 45-60 minutes long and you must attend the whole session. You must attend a drop-off session in person to apply and cannot send your materials with another person.

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 within 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 guided review sessions for students to review their own completed OPT application materials and ask questions before mailing to USCIS on Monday and Thursday at 1 PM.  Students should attend an OPT application review session after 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 an 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 1pm.
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. Do not submit your OPT application electronically – you must print and mail all application materials 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 Form I-765 (see OIS Guidelines for Completing Form I-765). Make sure to use the latest version available at http://www.uscis.gov/i-765. Include all pages of the form
  • 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 photos (2″x2″) – write your name on the back of the photos and paper clip them to the top of the Form I-765. Make sure the photos meet the requirements specified in USCIS Instructions for Form I-765: https://www.uscis.gov/i-765
  • Printout of the most recent I-94 Admission/Departure Record. You can get your most recent I-94 record at: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94 
  • Front and back copy of any previously issued EAD cards
  • Photocopy of your most recent visa stamp
  • Photocopy of your passport (ID page and/or expiration page)
  • Copy of the OPT I-20 (signed by OIS within 30 days)
  • Copies of all prior I-20s issued for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT)

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.)

 OPT and International Travel

Traveling internationally and re-entering the U.S. with a pending OPT application can be risky and you should consider the specifics of your situation and your own tolerance of risk before choosing to travel internationally under these circumstances. Please consider the following scenarios and the documentation needed for each one.

Entering before I-20 Program End Date, OPT Still Pending or Already Approved:

Required Documents:

    • Valid passport
    • Valid visa
    • Most recently issued I-20 with a travel signature dated within the last 6 months

If you are entering before the I-20 program end date, you only need the above documents regardless of the status of your OPT application. Remember, however, that you must wait until you receive the USCIS receipt notice (I-797C) after filing your OPT application before leaving the U.S.

Entering after I-20 Program End Date, OPT Still Pending:

Required Documents:

    • Valid passport
    • Valid visa
    • Most recently issued I-20 with a travel signature dated within the last 6 months
    • USCIS receipt notice for your OPT application (I-797C)

Highly Recommended Documents:

    • Proof of employment, such as a job offer letter
    • Proof of an active search for employment (if you don’t have proof of employment)

Entering after I-20 Program End Date, OPT Approved:

Required Documents:

    • Valid passport
    • Valid visa
    • Most recently issued I-20 with a travel signature dated within the last 6 months
    • EAD Card

Highly Recommended Documents:

    • USCIS Receipt Notice (I-797C) and/or Approval Notice (I-797A)
    • Proof of employment, such as a job offer letter (especially if your OPT start date has passed)
    • Proof of an active search for employment (if you don’t have proof of employment)

If you need to re-enter the US after your EAD card has been issued, the expectation when you go through customs is going to be that you have the EAD card in hand upon entry. If the EAD is issued while you are abroad, you can have your card mailed to you abroad, but a potential issue is that you may not have enough time to receive it before your return travel. In this case, you can either try to enter without it, which can be risky and OIS does not advise you to do so. Or, you can choose to change your travel plans which may be costly and delay the beginning of your work.

Another potential risk if the EAD is issued while you are abroad is if the EAD becomes lost in the mail (either on it’s way to your U.S. address or on it’s way to you abroad). The only way to get another one is to reapply for a replacement which takes another three months (if your application is even accepted as typically you are required to be in the U.S. when you apply), and you would have to remain abroad that whole time, unless you try to re-enter without it, which, again, could be risky. 

Update your employment information in the SEVP Portal

While on the 12-month post-completion OPT, you must report the start and end of your employment to SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) within 10 days of occurrence. You will be reporting and updating your employment information in the SEVP Portal.

What is SEVP?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program that administers the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The purpose of SEVIS is to ensure that government agencies have essential data related to nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors to preserve national security.

For more information about SEVP and SEVIS, please visit https://www.ice.gov/sevis.

What is the SEVP Portal?

The SEVP Portal is a tool that lets OPT students meet their OPT reporting requirements. The Portal allows OPT students to report their address, telephone number and employer information. The portal shares information with SEVIS, but does not give students direct access to SEVIS.

Only OIS advisors have direct access to your SEVIS record, but you will be able to review and update your home/mailing address, telephone number, and employment information via the SEVP Portal. All data entered into the SEVP Portal will be automatically sent to SEVIS.

For more information about the SEVP Portal, please click here.

How can I register for an SEVP Portal account?

Once your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) is issued and the start date on your EAD card arrives (or within 1-2 days after the start date), you will receive an email from SEVP with instructions on creating an SEVP Portal account.

Please review the process for creating an SEVP Portal account on this DHS webpage.

What should I do if I didn’t receive an email from SEVP with instructions to create a portal account?

  1. Remember, SEVP will send you this email only when your OPT is approved and active, meaning that you have been issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) and the start date of you EAD card has arrived (or within 1-2 days after the start date). If you already have your EAD card, but the start date of your EAD card is still in the future, you will not have the SEVP email yet.
  2. The SEVP email will come from do-not-reply.sevp@ice.dhs.gov to the email checked as your preferred email in MyPack. The email that is checked as your preferred email in MyPack is associated with your SEVIS record and will be used for the SEVP Portal. You can change your preferred email in MyPack, if you need to. If you change your preferred email in MyPack, it will take 2-3 days for the system to transmit the update into SEVIS and the SEVP Portal. 
  3. Check your spam/junk mailbox to make sure you didn’t miss the SEVP email.
  4. If you have your EAD card and it has been 2 days or more since the start date of your EAD card arrived, but you still haven’t received an email from SEVP, please send an email to ois@ncsu.edu with the subject line “SEVP Portal Email Not Received” attaching a copy of your EAD. Sometimes, SEVIS fails to update a student’s OPT status to Approved and as a result of that, the SEVP Portal is “unaware” that your OPT has been approved. Shortly after we receive your email, one of our advisors will check your SEVIS record, submit a correction request to SEVP/SEVIS Help Desk and reach out back to you.

How should I report my employment in the SEVP Portal?

  1. Remember to add your employer information within 10 days from the start of employment.
  2. If you have multiple employers at the same time, make sure to add each employer in your SEVP Portal account.
  3. If the end date of your employment has not been specified, you can leave this field blank.
  4. When your employment ends, make sure to update your employer information in the SEVP Portal by editing the end date. When you start to work with a new employer, remember to add a new employer record. If your position changed within the same employer, do not add a new employer record, just edit your job title in the record that already exists for this employer.
  5. In the “Employer Address” field, make sure to put your work site’s address, which can be different from your employer’s main office address. If you continue to work for the same employer, but move to another work site, you will need to edit the employer address field.
  6. The detailed instructions on updating employer information in the SEVP Portal are available on this DHS webpage.

What else do I need to remember for my OPT employment?

  • You should collect and retain all documentation (offer letters, time sheets, paycheck stubs,  etc.) related to your employment while on OPT. You may need it when applying for future benefits or changes of status.
  • In addition to the employment information, you are responsible for updating your physical home address, mailing address, and telephone numbers in the SEVP Portal. Please also keep your home/mailing address up to date in your MyPack account.
  • If you change your immigration status, please send a copy of proof of such change (e.g. USCIS  Approval Notice) to OIS at ois@ncsu.edu.

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