Skip to main content

Optional Practical Training

OPT Updates for Spring 2023

  • If you are an F-1 student completing your program in Spring 2023, remember that you must first apply to OIS for an I-20 with an OPT recommendation before filing the I-765 application with USCIS.
  • Recorded information sessions about the OPT process from Fall 2023 can be found here.
  • Premium processing: USCIS has recently announced that they are offering premium processing for I-765 pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT and STEM OPT applications. The fee for premium processing is $1,500 and would provide students with a guaranteed 30 day processing time for their I-765. USCIS is accepting requests for premium processing via the submission of the Form I-907 concurrently with a Form I-765. OIS recommends that students give careful consideration before filing for premium processing of their I-765. It is important to consult the USCIS processing time website and take into account your own filing timeline when considering if premium processing is the right choice for your application. If you have questions, please consult with an OIS advisor before filing for premium processing.

OPT Q&A Sessions

OPT Q&A sessions are held online every Tuesday at 1:00PM and Thursday at 10:00AM. Join the session through the following link: Please note you must join the session by 1:30pm (Tuesday) or 10:30am (Thursday). The session will be locked after these times and you will not be able to join using the above mentioned link.

Participants are invited to ask their questions through a group chat function, and the advisor will talk through these questions with everyone in virtual attendance. All participants will be able to hear each question, so if you have a lengthy question or a question of a personal nature, please make an appointment with your advisor. Please note that the Q&A sessions are optional and there is no set presentation; the Q&A sessions just provide an opportunity for students to talk with OIS advisors about any OPT questions they may have. Another thing to note is that this not an I-765 review session, meaning that we will not be going through the I-765 question by question, however if you have a specific I-765 question you can ask this during the session.

How to Apply for OPT:

  1. Complete the OPT Application form and send it to your advisor or DGP (based on level) for them to fill out their section. OIS will not send the form for you. We will accept electronic signatures on the application form. 
  2. Go to and complete the Post-Completion OPT Request forms. You will upload your OPT Application form in this process.

An OIS advisor will review your materials and email you if anything is missing. Otherwise, you can expect to receive an email from OIS within 10 business days containing a scanned copy of your new, OPT I-20. With this I-20 copy, you can proceed with mailing your OPT application to USCIS. Please refer to the following resources to assist you in preparing your OPT application:

And don’t forget, if you still have questions, feel free to join an OPT Q&A before you mail your application to USCIS!

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 process need to be sent to USCIS.

  • 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

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. 

I-765 Mailing Address

We are again allowing students to use OIS’s address as their mailing address for the I-765 application to USCIS if they have no other stable options. Full conditions and instructions are included in the OPT/ STEM OPT Mail Waiver, which you must complete should you use OIS’s mailing address.

Online Filing of I-765

USCIS has made the I-765 available for online filing for F-1 students applying for pre-, post- or STEM Extension Optional Practical Training (OPT). There may be certain situations where due to very close filing deadlines, filing online may be advantageous. If you have further questions about the online filing of the I-765, please attend an OPT Q&A session or review our guide for filing the Online I-765.