COVID-19 Updates

Read the latest Task Force update.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) + STEM OPT Extension

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is “temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student’s major area of study” that may be obtained from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as a benefit of maintaining lawful F-1 status.

OPT authorization allows F-1 students to gain work experience in their field of study. Eligible F-1 students earn 12 months of OPT at each academic level (i.e., bachelor’s, master’s, Ph.D.).

OPT I-20 Request Form

Click each of the below sections to access and review pertinent information.

Students are eligible for OPT when they meet the following requirements:

  • Have active F-1 status
  • Have completed one year (two semesters) of full-time academic study or will complete one academic year by the date of your OPT approval
  • Are making normal academic progress
  • Have not been authorized for a total of 12 months of full-time CPT
  • Have not previously been authorized for OPT at the same degree level

Please note: You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT; you can apply for the 12-month OPT authorization without a job offer. All job offers must be directly related to your academic major.

OPT used while you are still enrolled in your course of study and prior to your program end date is called pre-completion OPT. Pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 months of OPT eligibility, and most students prefer to save OPT for after program completion. You may start the OPT application process up to 90 days before your requested employment start date.

OPT authorization that begins after completion of your academic program is called Post-Completion OPT. This is the most common type of OPT. Post-completion OPT can be part-time or full-time.

You must apply for OPT based on your last registered semester. You can submit your OPT application up to 90 days prior to your program end date and up to 60 days after. OPT applications can be submitted online or by mail.

  • Discuss OPT eligibility with your DSO/PDSO early (preferably the start of your last semester at latest)
  • Download and complete the Elmhurst University OPT I-20 Request Form with your Academic Advisor/Program Director
  • Turn your completed form in to ISS
  • Review the OPT application requirements and gather your required documents and materials:
    • Completed Form I-765
    • Two identical passport style photographs
    • Copy of your signed I-20 showing OPT recommendation
    • Copies of any previously issued EAD cards and corresponding I-20s (if applicable)
    • Copies of any previously issued I-20s showing CPT authorization
    • Copy of your Passport
    • Copy of your F-1 Visa
    • Copy of your current I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
    • Copy of your I-797 approval notice (and I-94 card), only if you previously obtained a Change of Status to F-1 from USCIS.
  • Schedule a meeting with your DSO/PDSO to review your OPT application prior to submission
  • Application Timeline
    • For Pre-Completion OPT, you are allowed to file up to 90 days prior to your requested start date
    • For Post-Completion OPT, you are allowed to file up to 90 days prior to your requested start date, but USCIS must receive your application no more than 60 days after your program completion date
    • For both, USCIS must also receive your application no more than 30 days from your OPT recommendation date (or a new OPT recommendation will be required and your previous one canceled)
    • Failure to submit your application according to the timeline requirements above will result in a denial of your application
  • Submit your OPT application via mail or online via your USCIS Account
    • If you apply by mail you need to submit the required documents and materials plus:
    • If you apply online, you need to submit the required documents and materials in electronic format:
  • It usually takes 60-90 days for USCIS to process your OPT application. You can check the processing time here
  • If or when USCIS approves your OPT application, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. You cannot start working until the start date listed on your EAD card has passed.
  • You are allowed to accrue up to 90 cumulative days of unemployment while on OPT
  • Employment must be directly related to your degree level and major field of study and be at least 20 hours per week to avoid accruing unemployment
  • Once approved you must report all employment and any employment changes while on OPT. You will need to report personal and employer/employment information. You can do so via the SEVP Portal or by reporting your employment to your DSO/PDSO. Please report employment or changes to employment within 10 days of the change.
  • Keep a record of your job offers, pay stubs, and other employment documents.

STEM OPT Extension

Students in their 12-month OPT authorization period, with a qualifying STEM degree and working for an E-Verify registered employer, may apply for an extension of their OPT. The CIP code of the degree’s major field of study listed on your I-20 must appear on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List.

Form I-983

Students are eligible for CPT when they meet the following requirements:

  • Have active F-1 status.
  • Have completed a STEM-Qualifying bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from an accredited, SEVIS-certified U.S. school.
    • Check if your CIP code on your I-20 is on the DHS STEM-designated degree program list here.
  • Are in a valid period of OPT.
  • Have an offer of paid employment for at least 20 hours per week from an employer that is enrolled in the E-Verify program and has an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN), and is a bonafide employer-employee relationship (self-employment is not allowed for STEM OPT Extensions).
    • Check with your supervisor or HR representative
  • Have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment in your current OPT period.
  • Discuss STEM OPT Extension eligibility with your DSO/PDSO early (preferably the start of your last semester, at the latest).
  • Send your DSO/PDSO the following by email:
    • Your full legal name and eNumber and “STEM OPT Extension Request” in the subject of your email.
    • Copy of your completed Form I-983 signed by you and your employer (you and your employer keep the original).
    • Your employer’s E-Verify number.
    • Confirmation if you have any plans to travel internationally in the near future.
    • Confirmation if you have any plans to move in the near future.
    • Please allow 1-2 weeks for review and processing of your STEM OPT Extension request.
  • Review and assemble the STEM OPT Extension application materials:
    • Completed Form I-765
    • Two identical passport style photographs
    • Copy of your signed I-20 showing STEM OPT Extension recommendation
    • Copy of your signed I-20 showing your current OPT authorization and employment details
    • Copy of your current and any previously issued EAD cards and corresponding I-20s (if applicable
    • Copy of your Passport
    • Copy of your F-1 Visa
    • Copy of your current I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
    • Copy of your I-797 approval notice (and I-94 card), only if you previously obtained a Change of Status to F-1 from USCIS.
    • Official transcripts showing your STEM degree conferral (you can request transcripts here
  • Schedule a meeting with your DSO/PDSO to review your STEM OPT Extension application prior to submission
  • Application Timeline
    • You are allowed to file up to 90 days prior to your current OPT EAD card expiration date
    • USCIS must receive your 24-month STEM OPT Extension application before your current OPT EAD card expiration date
    • USCIS must also receive your 24-month STEM OPT Extension application within 60 days of your STEM OPT Extension recommendation date
    • Failure to submit your application according to the timeline requirements above will result in a denial of your application
  • Submit your STEM OPT Extension application via mail or online via your USCIS Account
    • If you apply by mail you need to submit the required documents and materials plus:
      • Physical Form I-765
      • Form G-1145
      • Money order/cashier’s check for the appropriate I-765 filing fee made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
      • Retain a copy of your application for your records and mail the STEM OPT Extension application to the appropriate USCIS Service Center before the deadline
    • If you apply by online, you need to submit the required documents and materials in electronic format:
  • It usually takes 60-90 days for USCIS to process your STEM OPT Extension application. You can check the processing time here.
  • If or when USCIS approves your STEM OPT Extension application, USCIS will issue a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. You cannot start working until the start date listed on your EAD card has passed.
  • You are allowed to accrue an additional 60 days of unemployment while on your STEM OPT Extension, which is in addition to the 90-day maximum period of unemployment allowed during your initial period of OPT.
  • Reporting Changes in Employment is required:
    • If there is a “material” change in your employment, please submit an updated I-983 form to ISS.
    • If you change employers while your STEM OPT Extension application is pending or after it is approved, you must notify ISS within 10 days of the change, submit a self-evaluation (last page on your I-983), and a new I-983 for your new employer. Changing employers while your application is pending requires you interfile an updated application with USCIS.
    • The employer address should be the address to which you report for work. If your site of activity and/or supervisor information changes, please report to ISS within 10 days.
    • You must confirm your contact and employment information at 6-month, 12-month, 18-month, and 24-month intervals.
    • You must submit a self-evaluation (last page of the I-983) to ISS at the 12-month and 24-month intervals.
    • Failure to report your employment information to ISS or comply with unemployment restrictions will result in the automatic termination of your SEVIS record and F-1 status by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • Keep a record of your job offers, pay stubs, and other employment documents.

Connect with #elmhurstu