Post-Completion OPT- Application Process

How do I apply?

1. Submit your OPT Academic Advisor Form to the IO
  • The OPT Academic Advisor Form  must be completed and signed by your academic advisor/program director/PI. 
  • Bring this form to the IO during walk-in hours. 
  • If you do not have questions about your OPT start date, give your form to the IO Front Desk team.  (If you have questions, please sign in for walk-in hours and meet with an IO advisor).
2.  OPT Authorization Processed
  • Your IO advisor will process your OPT authorization
  • This means we will create a new I-20 for you to use with your OPT application.  
  • During this time, please assemble all of your OPT materials.  See the OPT Application materials checklist below
  • OPT processing time: 5 business days (1 week)
3. Pick up your new I-20s + meet with an IO advisor
  • Bring all of your OPT documents to the IO
  • Pick up your new OPT recommendation I-20s 
  • Review your entire OPT application with an IO advisor 
4. Mail your application to USCIS
  • Sign page 1 of both of your new I-20s
  • Copy/take a picture of both pages of your I-765
  • Mail your application to USCIS within 15 days (or else it will be rejected!)
  • The instructions page (included with your new I-20s) lists the correct mailing address
5. Wait...
  • After 2-3 weeks, you will receive a receipt notice in the mail and via email based on the information you entered on the G-1145 form.
  • Track your application here.  Please note that USCIS does not regularly update the steps and most students see their status as 'initial review' until it jumps to 'card production. Please keep in mind that this website has average processing times for USCIS forms. Choose I-765 as the form and Potomac Service Center to get the correct processing times.
  • Once approved, you will receive an email from SEVP to create an Portal Account. This is typically the first "approval notification" you will receive.
  • Your card will probably arrive at the address you requested around two weeks after the SEVP email.
  • You will receive your OPT EAD card.  Make a copy or take photos of both sides of your new EAD card.  Do not lose it!
  • You cannot begin working until you receive the EAD card and the start date on it has passed.

Application materials checklist

OPT Instructions & Checklist

The following items need to be reviewed by the IO. Items marked with an asterisk also need to be submitted to USCIS:

  • OPT Academic Advisor Form (completed and signed)
  • Completed form I-765 (view a sample)* PLEASE NOTE: the I-765 was updated in July 2018.
    • We try to keep the most up to date information here for your guidance. As an example- the instructions (found here) note that there should not be any blanks on the form. You should type in N/A. In most browsers you cannot type N/A.
    • Only use BLACK ink when completing this form.
    • Do not make corrections on the form. If you make a mistake, you must retype that page.
    • Our guidance may change based on feedback from USCIS and other colleagues.
    • Review our OPT presentation for more guidance.
    • To ensure that you are submitting correct documents, meet with an advisor during walk-in hours to review your packet before you send it.
  • Copy of your first I-20 issued by NU. Lost yours? Copy an I-20 that is more than 1 year old*
  • Copy of all CPT I-20s (if you had CPT at Northwestern only)*
  • I-94 record printout*
  • Copy of passport biographical page*
  • Copy of F-1 visa stamp*
  • Complete form G-1145 (download from*
  • Payment to USCIS* (currently $410, but please check to verify)
    • Payment by check, cashier's check, or money order: payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security  Sample check
    • Payment by credit card: you must complete and include Form G-1450 (download from
  • Two identical passport style (2" x 2") color photographs taken within the last 30 days* Write your full name and your I-94 number on the back of the photos.
  • If applicable, photocopy (front and back) of previously issued Employment Authorization Documents (EAD cards) or other USCIS approved employment authorization(s).*
  • I-20 with OPT recommendation*  (You will receive this from the IO after we process your application)
  • SEVIS CPT printout, if applicable* (You may receive this from the IO after we process your application)