​OPT is the benefit of temporary employment that is directly related to a student’s field of study. F-1 students may be eligible for this benefit for up to twelve months of OPT authorization for each level of study (Associate, Bachelor, MA, PhD). The majority of students apply for the benefit of OPT as they near the end of their academic studies. Utilizing OPT after completion of your studies allows you the opportunity to use the skills you have learned at The Chicago School in a “real world” environment. 

Now you can apply for OPT both in paper as the traditional way or apply online, new since April 21, 2021. The online application is actually moved the Form I-765 questions to the online platform. You will receive the Receipt Number for tracking immediately and all you can view all USCIS request and communication and approval in your account. 

Regardless, you must have the following done and reviewed by your DSO prior to submit your application to USCIS:
  • ​Complete the OPT application​ form  
  • Complete the Form I-765
  • Have the recommendation letter from your academic department to have your actual program end date determined

OPT Application ONline 

  • You must setup an account with USCIS at https://myaccount.uscis.gov/users/sign_up​
  • ​You must have all required documents signed, scanned and saved as PDF or JPEG file in your computer and ready to be uploaded. Make sure to save them in the right direction, so the USCIS office doesn't have to rotate it to review. Your documents must be in English; if not, you must translate ​and upload together ​
  • You must have a valid credit card or U.S. bank account
  • You are recommended to complete the application in one setting to avoid complications, even though the system can save your work for 30 days. During the 30 days you should do some edits.
  • You must send your Department Recommendation Letter, Sample Form I-765, and The Chicago School OPT Application Form to your DSO for review. Your DSO will communicate with you if any correction needs to be made. You will apply online only after your DSO confirms that you are ready to do so. 
  • Keep in mind that once you click Continue after enter the payment information, your application is submitted and no edit is allowed. Please review all the answers you provided before make the payment.
OPT Online Application Required Documents:

 POST-completion OPT Evidence 


(as listed in online filing system) 



2 x 2 photo of you 

Passport Photo 

See “Photo Requirements” 

DOS also has a photo check tool that you can use to check the photo ahead of time. 

Form I-94 

Entry I-94 


Change of Status I-797 Approval 

Download your most recent I-94 here: 

Employment Authorization Document 

Valid passport biographical page 

F-1 visa page 


Previously authorized CPT or OPT 

I-20(s) (for CPT) 

And / Or 

EAD (for OPT) 

Leave empty if no prior OPT or CPT. 

Form I-20 

Newest I-20 with post-completion OPT recommendation 

This is only referring to the recommending I-20, not to prior I-20s ​

OPT Online Application Instructions and Next Steps after Approval

Please review the step-by-step instructions with screen shots ​on how to apply online and next steps after your OPT is approed to ensure compliance.

OPT Checklist - Application in-Paper

As of October 2017, USCIS allows OPT applicants to apply for Social Security Number (if don't have one before) on the same Form of I-765.  There are extra questions added to the I-765. Please review it carefully.​

Follow all USCIS instructions and IPS website and mail in a completed package:
  • Application Fee Payment
  • ​Optional but Highly Recommended
    • G-1145 to allow USCIS to text you the receipt number and case process
  • I-765​ : review I-7​65 Instructions
  • Copy of New I-20 for OPT - Copy Only
    • make sure to include all three pages and DO NOT copy double-sided
  • I-94 Front and Back -or- Print-out from CBP website
  • Copies of Previous EADs (if any)
  • Passport & Visa Copies – Bio Information page and F-1 Visa page. Do not copy double-sided.
  • 2 Passport Photos
    • ​Must be identical and meet the standard (I-765 Instructions, pg 20)
    • Use pencil and write lightly on the back of the photo your SEVIS ID and I-94 eleven digit number 
  • Copies of all I-20s for previous CPT and OPT authorization if any 
    • Make sure to include all pages and do not copy double-sided.


STEP 1: Create your SEVIS portal account within 14 days of receiving the SEVIS email. Please make sure to check your Junk mail. 

STEP 2: Once you receive your employment offer, send your Job Offer Letter to your DSO. Please find the contact information​ of your DSO here. 

STEP 3: ​Complete the OPT Employment and Major Area of Study Explanation Form​. Please make sure to use your Chicago School credentials when filling the form. 


Q:  How many times am I eligible for OPT?

A:  A student is eligible for up to 12 months of full time OPT per academic level (Associate, Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate).  However, once a student has changed educational levels, he/she loses the privilege to engage in OPT for the lower educational level if he/she does not engage in OPT employment BEFORE changing levels.  

Q:  Does use of Curricular Practical Training (CPT) affect my eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

A:  In some cases, yes. Use of full time CPT for 12 months or more eliminates the participant’s eligibility for OPT.  However, use of less than 12 months of full time CPT or part time CPT does NOT affect eligibility for OPT.

Q:  Can I change my OPT start date once my application has been submitted to USCIS?

A:  Maybe; a request may be submitted to USCIS but it is unlikely that USCIS will be able to adjust your dates of employment once they have processed your application.

Q:  Can I cancel my OPT request after it has been submitted to USCIS without losing the possibility of doing OPT at a later time?

A:   Maybe; it depends on whether USCIS has approved the application for OPT.  After it has been approved by USCIS, a student cannot reset the OPT clock.  Thus a student must use the time or lose it.   

Q:  I think I may complete my degree this semester, but I’m not sure.  When should I apply for OPT?

A:  Typically we recommend a student apply for OPT before they complete their degree requirements, however, if you are unsure, you may want to wait until the end of the semester to apply.  You may submit your application for OPT up to 60 days following the completion of your degree (during your grace period).  

Q:  Can I begin work as soon as I receive my EAD card?

A:  No, you may not begin employment until the start date indicated on the card.

Q:  What if I can’t find a job while authorized for OPT?

A:  You may want to consider volunteering your services in a position related to your field of study with a non​-profit organization and volunteer minimum 20 hours a week. Immigration regulations state that a student on post-completion OPT may not accrue more than 90 aggregate days of unemployment or she will be considered out of status.

Q:  Can I travel while on OPT?

A: In general, it is not advisable to travel before you receive your EAD card and with a job offer.  

Q:  Can I take classes while on post-completion OPT?

A:  If a student is already approved for post-completion OPT but discovers that coursework must still be completed, he/she can return to school but may only use the EAD to work part-time (20 hours/week).  Other students who are on OPT may pursue additional studies so long as they continue to work full time.  However, per immigration regulations, “authorization to engage in OPT is automatically terminated when the student transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level.”  Thus, if you have just been authorized for OPT on the basis of your Master’s and wish to work on your doctorate, you cannot do both things at the same time.

Q:  How long do I have after my OPT ends to remain in the United States?
A:  You have a grace period of up to 60 days in which to leave the country or change your immigration status

OPT: SEVP Portal

Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) launched the SEVP Portal in 2018. The portal is a tool that F-1 or M-1 students on post-completion optional practical training (OPT) can use to report changes to their home address, telephone number and employer information. The portal is accessible from both your mobile device and computer.

You will receive an email with instructions on creating a portal account. This email will come from [email protected]. If you do not see the email, check your spam or junk mail folder. If you still do not see it, contact your designated school official (DSO) to have the email sent again.

You will also receive from the portal reminding you of important deadlines and changes to​ your SEVIS record.  When your email address changes in SEVIS, the portal will send a confirmation email to your old email address and new email address.​​

The SEVP Portal will allow you to:

  • View details about your post-completion OPT.
  • Report changes to your address, telephone and employer information.
  • View and update data on all your employers in one place. 

Any data updates you make in the portal will be sent directly to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Your SEVIS Portal Account will be closed by SEVP 6 months after the last day of your employment on the EAD card.

SEVP has created an SEVP Portal Help section on Study in the States with:

Use of the portal is highly encouraged by SEVP. If you have any questions about the portal or need assistance, call the SEVP Response Center at 703-603-3400.

EAD ERROR Correction instructions

EAD Error (made by USCIS):​

Steps to Request Corrections

Step 1: Write a Letter of Explanation
Write a letter to USCIS explaining the situation.
In your letter, include:

  1. The date;
  2. The address of the USCIS office as indicated on your approval notice;
  3. Your personal identifying information: 
    • Full name as indicated on your I-20, 
    • Date of birth, 
    • SEVIS ID number, 
    • USCIS Receipt Number for the OPT EAD with the error;
  4. A detailed explanation of your situation (that the EAD was issued with incorrect dates);
  5. A statement indicating that you have enclosed supporting documentation on the correct information (for example, your incorrect EAD card and the dates that should instead have been on your EAD card, a copy of your previous Post-Completion OPT I-20 and previous Pre-Completion OPT EAD card);
  6. A statement requesting USCIS to mail the new corrected EAD card to you;
  7. The US address that you would like the new EAD card to be mailed to;
  8. Your signature.

See also this sample letter​.
Step 2: Photocopy Your Supporting Documentation 
Make a photocopy of the original incorrect EAD card and your letter for your records before mailing to USCIS.
Step 3: Send Your Correction Request to USCIS
Send your letter, EAD card with the error, and other supporting documents via FedEx or UPS so that you can track the package. Keep a copy the shipment tracking information for your records.
If your application was approved by the Potomac Service Center, send the letter and supporting documentation to:
US Citizenship and Immigration Services
Potomac Service Center
2200 Potomac Center Drive, Stop 2425
Arlington, VA 20598-2425
If your USCIS receipt number does not begin with YSC, contact us and provide the first three letters of your receipt number so that we can instead provide you with the correct mailing address.

If you think your EAD card is lost, please f​ollo​w the instruction and contact USCIS accordingly​

EAD Typographic Error made by the USCIS- e-file with USCIS for Correction​

Career and Professional Development Supports for Int'l Students & Alumni