Optional Practical Training (OPT) is most commonly used by students to gain work experience in their field of study after completing a degree program. There are certain other situations in which OPT may be possible prior to completion of a degree program.
Applications for OPT are submitted by mail to the Nebraska Service Center of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). When approved, an Employment Authorization Document (EAD, Form I-766) will be mailed to the address which is listed on the student’s I-765 application form.
OPT applications must be submitted prior to completion of a degree program. It can take USCIS ninety days or more to process an OPT application. The International Support Services can provide a current estimate of processing times. However, USCIS processing is erratic, and should never be depended upon to provide prompt and timely service. Applications should be submitted at least 90 days prior to the date you want to begin working. You cannot begin working until you have received your EAD card.
USCIS regulations allow up to 12 months of OPT at each degree level for a student in F-1 status. A student must have been in F-1 status for at least 9 consecutive months to be eligible for OPT. In certain circumstances, time spent in full-time study in another immigration status may count toward satisfaction of the 9-month rule.
Students remain in F-1 status during the period of OPT, and must continue to report any change of address to USCIS via Drury University. A change of address must be reported to the International Support Services within 10 days.