After You Have Applied for Optional Practical Training
Learn more about how to minimize complications, exceptions and possible problems after applying to standard Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Steps to minimize complications
- Make a copy for your records of the receipt from the post office showing the tracking number.
- Set up email notifications at usps.com with tracking number to monitor when your application is received by USCIS.
- In the unlikely event that delivery is delayed, denied, returned, missing, etc., call USPS customer service to determine the problem and follow recommended instructions. If you determine that your I-765 has not reached USCIS, contact an International Advisor for advice.
- Print page from usps.com showing that application was received on or before your I-20 end date and keep in your records.
- If you paid by personal check, monitor your bank account and note the date the check cleared. This will confirm receipt by USCIS.
- Make a photocopy for your records.
- Sign up for email updates at USCIS website using Receipt Number.
- Verify that name and mailing address are printed 100% correctly on receipt notice. If any error, email email@example.com for advice.
- DO NOT contact USCIS to change your address. If circumstances change and it is absolutely impossible for you or someone else to receive the EAD at the address on the Receipt Notice, email firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.
- DO NOT notify USPS of a change in address until you have made arrangements for the address update with USCIS according to an International Advisor's advice.
- If someone else is receiving the EAD on your behalf, alert that person that a piece of mail should be arriving soon and to notify you as soon as it arrives. Remind the person to put it in a new mail envelope rather than forwarding to you.
- Take any steps possible to ensure delivery of your mail. If you live in an apartment complex, check that your name is on your mailbox. If you have roommates, alert them you are expecting something important.
- DO NOT notify USPS to hold mail, forward mail, or process a change of address until you receive the EAD.
- Upload a Copy of your EAD to the New Documentation eForm (must use VPN). If you have problems uploading due to the VPN accessibility, please feel free to submit a scanned copy of EAD to the OIA via email, email@example.com.
- Report Employment and Unemployment
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will send a link inviting you to create an SEVP Portal Account after your OPT program start date. The email will be sent from do-not-reply.SEVP@ice.dhs.gov. Please check your SPAM, in case the email gets redirected. The link expires 14 days from the time it was sent and it can only be clicked once to register your SEVP Portal Account. If the link expires, notify the OIA to reset your SEVP Portal Account.
For help with this process, please visit the SEVP Portal Help Website, or email SEVP@ice.dhs.gov.
Portal users who already set up their accounts can now reset their own accounts if they have been locked out. The “Password Reset” option is available on the SEVP Portal login page.
On your EAD start date, you must begin reporting information on all training positions. You must report your start date and end date. If you have a paid or unpaid position, you will need to report the name and address of your employer. You may work part-time or full-time, however, the approved Post-Completion OPT will be counted as a full-time duration of 12 months. If you are unemployed, there is no employment information to report, but you should keep track of the total days of unemployment accumulated. You must report the employment within 10 days. You will not be able to report the employment with a start date, which is over 10 days on your SEVP Portal Account. In this case, you may use the date that when you are entering the employment information and add the employer information to your SEVP Portal Account. You will need to contact DSOs (International Student Advisers) to edit the date to the actual employment start date on your SEVIS record.
F-1 OPT students are permitted a maximum of 90 unemployment days between the start- and end date as recorded on their EAD card. The SEVIS database automatically calculates unemployment days based on the information students submit in their SEVP Portal account. Students may use unemployment days before, between, or after OPT activities in increments of any size.
- Students who exceed the 90-day unemployment limit begin to accrue unlawful presence, which may jeopardize access to future U.S. immigration benefits including readmission to the United States. OIA recommends that students depart the United States and contact a DSO to close their F-1 record in order to avoid accruing unlawful presence.
Students who exceed the 90-day unemployment limit may not transfer their F-1 status to begin a new academic program and do not have an F-1 grace period. Students should consult an experienced immigration attorney for further guidance on the implications of unlawful presence in the United States.
All students on OPT must report employment updates. When reporting a change in employment, and adding a new employer in the portal, students should not delete previous Post-completion OPT employer information already in the portal. Be sure to maintain copies of all OPT materials, including job descriptions, for your personal records. Retain Record of Updated Employment.
- Throughout the OPT period, alumni are required by law to use the SEVP Portal to update any changes in US address or phone number within 10 days of the change.
- DHS requires all F-1 international students engaging in Post-completion OPT to report their permanent departure from the U.S. if the departure occurs before the end date on the EAD card. Please email this information to the OIA.
Exceptions and Problems
If for any reason you decide you do not want OPT, you must take immediate action to prevent your I-765 application from being adjudicated by USCIS (i.e. approved or denied).
- Write (but do NOT send!) a letter to USCIS requesting your I-765 application be withdrawn.
- Note “Re: I-765 Withdrawal” on the letter
- Include biographical information to identify yourself, including name, date of birth, and SEVIS ID number
- Request that the Form I-765 application for Optional Practical Training be withdrawn and include a short statement of why you are withdrawing your request
- Date and sign
- If you have received the Form I-797 (Receipt Notice) from USCIS, include the case number in your letter
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name, UMID, and case number (if you have already received a Receipt Notice from USCIS). Indicate that you mailed your I-765 and want to withdraw your OPT application. Attach your letter to USCIS to the e-mail and a copy of your Form I-797 Receipt Notice (if you have it).
- An International Advisor will contact USCIS Service Center which is processing your OPT application and request the withdrawal of the application. The Service Center may have additional instructions for you to follow before they officially withdraw your application. The advisor will let you know if this is the case.
- In a few weeks USCIS will send a confirmation letter to the address you listed on the I-765 indicating your application has been withdrawn. Keep this original and a photocopy in your records.
- There are a few possible reasons your Receipt Notice has not arrived:
- USCIS did not mail it yet. They may take up to 6 weeks to put a Receipt Notice in the mail after your application is received.
- Your Receipt Notice was “returned undeliverable.” This means the Post Office was unable to deliver the letter to your address and they mailed it back to USCIS. USCIS keeps it for a short time and then destroys it.
- The Receipt Notice was lost permanently before delivery (e.g. delivered to the wrong address) or after delivery (e.g. accidentally discarded as junk mail).
- To try and recover your receipt notice after you have waited four weeks, start with these steps:
- First do what you can to determine whether the Receipt Notice has already been delivered. Double check your stacks of mail and ask roommates, neighbors, the apartment complex manager, etc.
- Email email@example.com to inquire about the status of your receipt notice. Include your name, date of birth, and date your I-765 was delivered to USCIS.
- Call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at (800)375-5283 and ask for your receipt number. If you are able to obtain it, enter it on the USCIS.gov website under Case Status on the left hand side. You can often gain helpful information this way.
- You may find that one or both of the above steps solve your problem. For example:
- USCIS might tell you the Receipt Notice was not mailed yet and to wait a little longer.
- The Receipt Notice might have been returned undeliverable and USCIS still has it. Check that USCIS has the correct address on file, and if so, ask them to re-send it.
- Contact firstname.lastname@example.org in the following circumstances:
- You followed the instructions above and have not received an email reply after a week and you were unsuccessful in obtaining the receipt number by phone.
- You find out the receipt notice cannot be re-sent and you would like advice on international travel.
- The address on file with USCIS is no longer correct.
- A note on international travel
- The official guidance from Customs and Border Protection (i.e. the border officers) is that students should carry the Receipt Notice itself for re-entry while the OPT is pending.
- If your situation requires you to travel and attempt re-entry without a Receipt Notice, we recommend carrying a print-out from USCIS Case Status online showing the status of your case.
- If any of the following happen, call or email Office of International Affairs immediately for advice:
- You receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) in the mail or see in Case Status Online that one was sent
- You receive your I-765 application back in the mail or see in Case Status Online that it was rejected and/or returned
- Either of the above are an indication that something is seriously wrong with your OPT application. No progress will be made on your application until USCIS receives the necessary documentation from you.
- The allowable time period to respond to an RFE or rejected application is limited and will be indicated on the materials from USCIS. If you fail to respond by the deadline, your application will be denied.
If your I-765 is denied, the duration of your legal F-1 status reverts to being defined as the lasting through the I-20 end date plus 60 days grace period
If you are still within the grace period, you may stay in the U.S. for the remainder of the 60 days
If the grace period has already elapsed, you should depart the U.S. without delay
The chances for successfully appealing an I-765 denial are low. If you believe you were denied in error, contact an International Advisor or private immigration attorney at once.
USCIS will send the EAD using regular, first class mail. From the time Case Status Online indicates your request was approved, you should expect to wait a week or more for delivery of the EAD.
If you suspect a problem in the delivery of your EAD:
- First take any possible steps to determine whether the EAD has already been delivered to your address. Double check your stacks of mail and ask roommates, neighbors, the apartment complex manager, etc.
- Call the USCIS customer service number and ask if your EAD was “returned undeliverable,” meaning sent back to USCIS. Keep detailed records of your conversation with the customer service agent, including the date you called, any number the agent gave you, and the advice you were given.
- Email email@example.com with a detailed account of the situation and steps you have already taken, including notes from your conversation with USCIS customer service. An advisor will respond with advice.
Please be aware there is usually little, if anything, the International Advisor can do to intervene in cases of an EAD not delivered. You may ultimately need to apply for a replacement of the lost card and pay the fee again.
If your EAD was returned undeliverable or lost in the mail, you can expect significant delay in obtaining the card. If you have a job offer, you may wish to contact your employer to make arrangements for delaying your start date. Remember, you may not work until you have the EAD in hand, even if the Case Status Online shows your case was approved.
If there is any problem on your EAD, email a scanned copy of the card with a description of the exact problem (name misspelled, wrong dates, etc.) to firstname.lastname@example.org. An advisor will respond with advice.
- Remember, the dates on the card determine when you are authorized to work, even if they are not the dates for which you intended to apply.
- If for any reason USCIS approves the I-765 after the OPT start date you requested, the start date will be set as the date the application was approved. USCIS will not adjust the end date; therefore, your OPT period will be less than 12 months. This is unfortunate, but not a mistake. There is no remedy possible in this situation.