After Applying for OPT

REMEMBER: The Kearney Center has no influence over how quickly your application will be processed. USCIS is still reporting delays in OPT application processing, with wait times exceeding 90 days. We suggest you plan for the possibility of delay and submit your application as soon as possible. Only you can inquire about the status of your OPT application.

On this page:

Terms to Know

I-797: A document the USCIS uses to communicate with applicants about cases. It will be used to notify you if your application is approved, rejected, or denied.

Employment Authorization Card (EAD): A work permit card issued by USCIS. The dates on the EAD card are the dates that you are eligible to work.

Request for Evidence (RFE): A request issued by USCIS for further documentation.

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Application Receipt

1. After You File Your I-765 Application Online with USCIS

  • Once your application is submitted and payment received, you will use your online account to: 

    • View your receipt notice
    • View biometrics notices (if applicable)
    • Review Requests for Evidence (RFEs) 
    • View your case status (via the "Case status" tab)
    • View a PDF of the completed Form I-765
    • View your Decision Letter. 

    All notices will also be mailed to the mailing address you indicated on your form. 

2. When You Receive the I-797 Receipt Notice

  • Make a copy for your records.
  • Sign up for email updates at USCIS website using the receipt number.
  • Verify that your name and mailing address are accurate and printed correctly on the receipt notice.

3. If You Do Not Receive a Receipt Notice

  • Reasons why you may not have received the notice:
    • USCIS may take up to 6 weeks to send a receipt notice after your application is received.
    • Your notice was “returned undeliverable” meaning the post office was not able to deliver the notice to your listed address and returned it to USCIS.
    • The receipt was delivered to the wrong address or was accidentally discarded.
  • Steps you can take to recover your receipt notice:
    • Double-check stacks of mail; ask roommates and neighbors if they received it.
  • Notify USCIS of a Non-Delivery of Notice on their website here.
    • If you have followed the above steps and have not received an update, or if the address on file with USCIS is not correct, contact the Kearney International Center.

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Possible I-765 Outcomes

1. Your Application is Approved

  • If someone is receiving the EAD on your behalf, alert them that it will be arriving soon and to notify you as soon as it arrives.
  • Alert roommates that you are expecting important mail.
  • If you live in an apartment complex, ensure that your mailbox is clearly marked with your apartment number, and your name if possible.
  • Create a SEVP Portal Account. Follow this link to see instructional videos on accessing the SEVP Portal.
  • Make a copy of the I-797 Approval Notice and EAD (front and back) for your records.
  • Do not begin working until the start date on the EAD, even after being approved and receiving the documents. The dates on your EAD are the only dates you are eligible to work.

2. Your Application is Rejected or Denied

  • If you are rejected and/or receive a Request for Evidence (RFE), contact the Kearney Center immediately.
  • If you are denied, inform the Kearney Center and we will confirm your next steps. Generally:
    • Your legal F-1 status will revert to the last day of your 60-day grace period.
    • If you are still in the grace period, you may stay in the United States until the end of the grace period.
    • If you are not within the grace period, you must depart the United States as soon as possible.

3. You Decide to Cancel Your OPT Request

  • You will need to submit a letter to USCIS requesting that your application be withdrawn.
  • You will not receive a refund for your I-765 fee.
  • Write a letter containing the following:
    • “Re: I-765 Withdrawal” in the subject line of the letter
    • Your name, date of birth, SEVIS ID number
    • A short statement of why you are withdrawing your request.
    • Date and signature
    • If you have a receipt notice, include the case number
  • Note that cancelling OPT may forfeit remaining eligibility at the same level. Ex: If cancelling after six months, you would only be eligible for an additional six months after completing another degree at the same level.

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Employment Authorization Card (EAD) Issues

1. You Do Not Receive an EAD

  • The EAD will take one week or more to arrive after your approval. If you believe there is a problem with the delivery of your EAD:
    • Call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at (800) 385-5283 and ask if your EAD was “returned undeliverable” (sent back to USCIS by the mail carrier). Ensure that the address on file with USCIS is accurate. Keep detailed records of your conversation including the date and any information the agent tells you, including case or receipt numbers.
    • If the address on file with USCIS is incorrect, submit a Form AR-11 Alien’s Change of Address online through your USCIS account. See USCIS resources on address change.
    • Submit an “e-Request” on the USCIS website informing them of the card not being delivered.
    • In cases where the EAD card was returned as undeliverable, you may submit your case to the CIS Ombudsman for assistance. The Kearney Center cannot do this on your behalf.
    • Contact the Kearney Center to update us on your situation and the steps you’ve taken.

2. There is a Mistake on Your EAD

  • If there is a spelling error on your EAD, submit an “e-Request” on the USCIS website for “Typography Error” correction.

NOTE: The dates on your EAD are the only dates during which you are eligible for work. The dates on the EAD may not be the same as the dates you requested.

3. Your EAD is Lost, Stolen, or Damaged

If your EAD is lost or stolen, we suggest that you first retrace your steps to find your missing card. If, after investigating and retracing your steps, you are still not able to find your EAD card, you will have to go through the similar OPT process to receive a new EAD card.

Step 1:  Inform your immigration advisor regarding your lost, stolen or damaged card, because they will have to prepare a new I-20.

Step 2:  Gather and prepare all the items you need to submit to USCIS. Below is what you need to submit with your replacement application:

  • Updated I-765 Form (On page 1 you will mark “Replacement of lost, stolen, or damaged…” box)
  • G-1145 Form
  • Filing Fee
  • 2-passport style photographs
  • Copy of valid/unexpired passport
  • Copy of valid visa
  • Copy of I-94
  • Copy of any CPT I-20
  • Copy of I-797C, Approval Notice
  • Updated I-20 that says you’ve been approved for OPT
  • SEVIS Event History pages

Step 3:  Submit documentation to USCIS. Here is mailing information:

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Travel While OPT is Pending

If your post-completion OPT has not been approved and you do not have a job offer, you may leave and re-enter the United States to look for employment. However, the Kearney Center does not recommend travel during the waiting period for the following reasons:

  1. If you receive a rejection notice, a request for evidence, or any other communication from USCIS and do not respond within a certain period, you could be in danger of your case being denied.
  2. With no EAD and no job offer, students may have difficulty re-entering the United States.
  3. If your case is approved, you are required to have your EAD with you when you travel. If you are not in the United States when your EAD arrives, you will need someone to send it to you before you can re-enter the country.

Please understand that there is risk when traveling on OPT; however, if you decide to travel you should do so with all the following documentation:

  • Passport valid for six months after your arrival date
  • Valid F-1 visa (unless you are a Canadian citizen)
  • I-20 with travel signature
  • I-797 receipt notice
  • Evidence of job offer or interview appointment

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