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F-1 Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is designed to provide students with an opportunity to gain practical experience in their field of study. The OPT application requires approval from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) prior to the beginning date of the practical training.


  • Student must have been in lawful full-time F-1 status for one academic year
  • Training must be related to the student’s major area of studies
  • Two 12 month periods of training are available
  • Part-time OPT (20 hrs or less per week) will be deducted at half the full-time rate
  • No specific job offer is required to apply for the OPT
  • Student can begin the training only upon the receipt of the official approval (employment authorization card) from the INS
  • Must apply for post completion OPT before program completion 


  1. Pre-completion part-time OPT (when school is in session and training does not exceed 20 hrs a week)
  2. Pre-completion part-/or full-time OPT during the vacation time (when student intends to register for the next term)
  3. Post-completion full-time OPT (after completion of all course requirements for the degree excluding thesis or dissertation)
  4. Post-completion full-time OPT (after completion of course of study)

SEVIS OPT Regulations

Students on OPT must report the following events to Northcentral Technical College’s International Education Office within 10 days of their occurrence

  • Change of address
  • Termination of employment before the authorized end date
  • Transfer to another academic institution

Required documentation

  • Completed immigration forms I-765 and I-538
  • Academic Advisor’s Recommendation form
  • Original I-20 form
  • Photocopy of I-94 card (front and back)
  • Photocopy of passport (biographic and U.S. visa pages)
  • A check for $120 payable to BCIS
  • Two photographs, according to the BCIS specifications

Application process

  1. Review the instructions
  2. Obtain Academic Advisor’s Recommendations
  3. Collect all documentation and bring to NTC’s International Education Office for OPT recommendation
  5. Mail the completed application to the BCIS

Mailing instructions

Mail application to:
BCIS- Nebraska Service Center
P.O. Box 87765
Lincoln, NE 68501-7765

  • Use some form of secure mail that will give you a receipt. U.S. Postal Service’s Certified Mail is probably the most cost effective.
  • Put your documents in the following order when mailing:
    • Check for $120, payable to the BCIS
    • Photos with your name and I-94 number printed on the back of each photo
    • I-765 (original)
    • I-538
    • I-20, with OPT recommendation from NTC on page 3 (original)
    • I-94 (copy)
    • Passport (copy of the biographic and U.S. visa pages)

Additional Information

  • If you have not yet received a SEVIS I-20, please fill out the “SEVIS Event Form” and turn it in to the International Office with your OPT application.
  • Please keep a copy of the application materials for your records; NTC does not keep a copy on file.
  • OPT applications take anywhere from two to five months for the INS to process.
  • The application must be submitted before completion of studies.
  • Training has to be finished no later than 14 months after the completion of studies.
  • If the student leaves the country after the completion of studies and before obtaining authorization for training, s/he cannot re-enter without EAD.
  • Do not close your bank account until after check for the application fee has been cashed by BCIS.
  • A student may change employers during the period of authorized OPT provided that the new employment continues to be directly related to the students’ field of study and commensurate with his/her educational level.
  • For re-entry to the U.S. during the authorized period of the post-completion OPT, student must present: I-20 form endorsed by NTC within the last 6 months; EAD card; valid passport and F-1 visa*.
  • If a student has completed 12 months of OPT, and either (a) departs the U.S. for more than five months and re-enters in F-1 status to begin a new program, or (b) changes from one educational level to another, s/he is eligible for a new 12 month period of training.
  • Students are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes during the first five years in the U.S. These taxes should not be withheld from the student’s pay while s/he maintains F-1 status (see IRS Publication 519 “U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens”). After five years students become “residents” for tax purposes and are subject to paying all taxes.
  • All students on post-completion OPT are subject to SEVIS reporting requirements.

pdf form Academic Advisor’s Recommendation Form

Instructions for filling out the form I-765

If you are unsure about anything on the I-765 form, please ask an advisor at NTC’s International Education Office during your appointment. Download I-765 form

1-2. Self explanatory.

3. Please use a permanent U.S. address, because the U.S. Postal System will not forward the EAD if you change addresses before you receive the document. If there is a possibility that you will not be at your current address in the next three to four months, you may use NTC’s International Education Office address: 1000 W Campus Drive, Wausau, WI 54401.

4-9. Self explanatory.

10. The eleven-digit number on your I-94 card.

11. If you have ever applied for work authorization previous to this application, check "yes." If not, check "no" and skip to question twelve. If you checked "yes" answer the additional questions in number eleven. Also, make sure you include copies of any relevant documentation with your application.

12. The date, in red, stamped on your I-94 card.

13. The port of entry you last entered the US. This is also found on your I-94 card. It is part of the red stamp.

14. For most applicants the answer is "F-1 student".

15. Your current status is "F-1 student".

16. The category for practical training is (c) (3) (i).

Certification: Sign the form, and include your telephone number and the date.

Instructions for filling out the form I-538

If you are unsure about anything on the I-538 form, please ask an advisor at NTC’s International Education Office during your appointment.

1-2. Self explanatory.

3. I-94 number. This is the white card in your passport.

4. Date stamped in red (upper right corner) on the current, NON SEVIS I-20

5. Bachelor's, master's, PhD, etc. (should coincide with new SEVIS I-20).

6. Major (should coincide with new SEVIS I-20).

7. Brief description of the type of work you are seeking (should be in your field of study); beginning/ending date should coincide with dates on page 3 of new SEVIS I-20; hours per week is either FULL-TIME or PART-TIME, on page 3.

8. A. List CPT dates and/or pre-completion OPT dates (will be noted on current NON SEVIS I-20, page 4); B. List post completion OPT dates, only if you have completed post completion OPT in the past. DO NOT LIST CURRENT POST COMPLETION OPT.


SECTION B, 9-11 will be completed by Northcentral Technical College’s International Education Office. 


  • International Education