Graduate Studies

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a type of immigration employment that is directly related to your major and appropriate level of study.  The information below is for Post-Completion OPT (working after you have completed your degree program).  If you are interested in Pre-Completion OPT (working while still enrolled), please contact the Immigration Specialist.

OPT Eligibility and Application Process

Students in good academic standing who have been registered full-time for at least one academic year (fall and spring semesters) may be eligible to apply for OPT.  Students are eligible for up to 12 months of full-time OPT per academic level. 

Students can apply for OPT up to 90 days prior to their program end date;.  It is recommended to apply early as it can take up to three months to process.  


What do I need to apply for OPT?  

Please refer to the email on how to apply for OPT as you will need to first complete the Google Form before you receive the required new I-20 with the OPT recommendation.  Your application must be received within 30 days of the date on the new I-20 with the OPT recommendation.

Filing online.  Processing times vary and it is recommended to apply as soon as you are eligible.  Premium processing is now available for OPT.

Review the "How F-1 Students Seeking OPT Can Avoid Form I-765 Delays"

View the New Tip Sheet on How to Avoid Getting Locked Out of Your USCIS Online Account

  • Completed I-765
    • Use the Graduate Office, Sherman Hall 116, 1 University Circle, Macomb, IL, 61455 as your mailing location if you are unsure of your permanent mailing address after you graduate.
  • $410.00 payment (fee is increasing to $470 on April 1, 2024)
  • Recent passport-style photograph     
  • Current I-20 with OPT recommendation (you will receive an updated I-20 after completing the required Google Form)
  • Copy of your valid passport
  • Copy of your current visa (suggested, not required)
  • Copy of your I-94 (
  • Copies of any previous I-20s with CPT or a different SEVIS ID

***If there is a chance you will not graduate, please wait to apply for OPT and request for your I-20 to be extended PRIOR to the end of the semester.  ***


  What happens after my application is submitted?

  • Form I-797 (Notice of Action) will be sent to the mailing address listed on your application. If sent to WIU, you willl receive an email once it has been received. You may check the online status by accessing the USCIS website at https://egov. 

  When will I receive information about my application?

  • If your application is approved, your EAD (OPT card) will be mailed to the address listed on your application.  If sent to WIU, you will receive an email when the card has arrived and options for collecting the card.  In the unlikely event that your application is not approved, you will receive an explanation letter.

Can I change my mind after applying for OPT?

  • Authorization for OPT may not be rescinded or deferred once permission has been granted and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) has been issued.


Working on OPT

Any address or employment changes must be reported to the Immigration Specialist within 10 days. 

When can I begin working?

  • Students may begin working only after they have received the EAD from USCIS and the start date on the EAD has been reached.

What is the SEVIS Student Portal?

  • SEVIS will send an email on or after the OPT start date. 
  • Students must update their SEVIS portal as well as complete the OPT reporting form and return it to the Immigration Specialist and then a new I-20 will be issued.
  • Use the resources on this website to learn how to get started with the SEVP Portal and maintain information in the portal.

Can I change jobs while on OPT?

  • Yes, as long as the employment is directly related to your major and reported with 10 days of the change.  Log in to your portal, update the information and send the OPT reporting form to the Immigration Specialist.

Can I change my address while on OPT?

  • Yes, log in to your SEVIS portal and update your address within 10 days of the change.

Do I Pay Income Taxes while on OPT?

  • Students in F-1 status who have been in the U. S. for fewer than 5 years are not to have Medicare and Social Security taxes withheld from their paychecks; however, they are to have income tax withheld in accordance with tax treaties.
  • Students must complete federal and state income tax forms which are due on April 15 of each year.
Unemployment and Employment 

While you are on OPT, you are still an F-1 visa holder and may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during the total 12-month period of OPT.  This is calculated based on the start date of the EAD card.

Types of activity that constitute employment while on OPT

An F-1 nonimmigrant on standard post-completion OPT avoids "unemployment" when his or her activity constitutes "employment."

SEVP OPT Policy Guidance 1004-03 (2010) [7.2.1] states that the following activities are considered allowable employment on both pre-completion and standard post-completion OPT, provided that the job is directly related to the student's program of study. While a student engages in such activity during a period of standard post-completion OPT, he or she is not considered "unemployed":

  • Regular paid employment in a position directly related to the student's program of study.
    • For post-completion OPT, the work must be for at least 20 hours per week
    • Students may work for multiple employers, as long as it is directly related to the student's program of study.
  • Payment by multiple short-term multiple employers. SEVP says that "Students, such as musicians and other performing artists, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration."
  • Work for hire. SEVP says, "This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students should be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company."
  • Self-employed business owner. SEVP says, "Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student should be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program.
  • Employment through an agency. SEVP says, "Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency."
  • Volunteers or unpaid internsStandard OPT. SEVP OPT Policy Guidance states that, "Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work should be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. A student should be able to provide evidence, acquired from the student's employer, to verify that he or she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment."


Travel on OPT

Can I travel outside the U.S. while waiting for my EAD? 

  • Travel is not recommended while waiting for your EAD.  However, if you are still a current student, there is less risk.

Can I travel while on OPT?

  • Once you have your EAD and have started working, take the following documents when travelling: valid passport, valid F-1 visa, valid I-20 with travel endorsement that is less than 6 months old, EAD, offering letter and paystubs from your employer


Ending your OPT

If you begin a new program of study, your OPT will end once the program starts.

Your F-1 status remains valid 60 days after the expiration of your EAD card.  During this 60-day grace period, you are no longer authorized to work, however you may legally stay in the US.  If you depart the US during the 60-day grace period, you are no longer eligible to re-enter under your previous F-1 visa status.

    • If you plan to return home after the end of your OPT, please make sure that you depart the US before the end of your 60-day grace period
    • If you plan to change your visa status, begin this process before your OPT is expired
    • If you plan to start a new degree program at another university or college, please make sure to contact the Immigration Specialist at WIU regarding the transfer procedures of your SEVIS record.  Transfers must be completed before the end of your 60-day grace period
Applying for STEM Extension OPT

Students who graduate from STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) fields and whose employer is enrolled in the E-Verify program , may qualify for the 24-month OPT extension.  You may apply for STEM Extension up to 90 days prior to the end of your post-completion OPT and will be contacted by the Immigration Specialist.

WIU degrees that are eligible for STEM Extension OPT


  • Bachelor of Business in Business Analytics
  • Bachelor of Science in Biology, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Clinical Laboratory Science, Computer Science, Cybersecurity, Electrical Engineering, Engineering, Engineering Technology, Forensic Chemistry, Geographic Information Science, Geology, Information Systems, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Meteorology, Nutrition and Dietetics, Physics


  • Master of Accountancy
  • Master of Public Health
  • Master of Science in Applied Statistics and Decision Analytics, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering Technology, GIScience and Geoenvironment, Instructional Design and Technology, Mathematics, Physics, Quantitative Economics 
  • PhD in Environmental Science: Large River Ecosystems