Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training

Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is the opportunity for F-1 students to apply knowledge gained in their degree program to off-campus work. All work during OPT must be directly related to your level and field of study. OPT is recommended by the International Programs Office (IPO) and authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Normal processing time for this authorization is 60 to 90 days.

The maximum amount of time granted to work on OPT is 12 months per degree level plus a 24-month STEM extension for those who qualify. You may use some or all of the available 12 months of practical training during your course of study or save the full 12 months to use after you complete your program. OPT used during your course of study is called Pre-completion OPT (pre-OPT). Part-time, pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 months at half rate. Full-time, pre-completion OPT is deducted at full rate.


  • You must have been in full-time student status for at least one academic year (two semesters) by the requested stat date of the OPT period.
  • You must be maintaining valid F-1 status at the time of the application.
  • You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT.


For Pre-Completion OPT, USCIS must receive your OPT application within the following timelines or the application will be denied.

  • No more than 90 days before your requested OPT start date.
  • New OPT I-20 issued within 30 days.

Pre-Completion OPT Application Process:

You must submit a timely application to USCIS and must receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before you may begin working. Follow the steps below:

STEP 1: Be Informed. Read the Pre-Completion OPT handout* thoroughly and carefully. With questions, consult the International Programs Office. Also refer to the Pre-Completion OPT power point* for tips on filing this application.

STEP 2: Submit a complete Pre-Completion OPT Recommendation Form to the IPO front desk. A new I-20 recommending Pre-Completion OPT will be ready for pick-up in 3 business days.

STEP 3: Compile a complete OPT application. Gather the required application materials and prepare your application with the documents included in this order:

  • I-765 filing fee of $410. Check or money order made payable to “US Department of Homeland Security.”
  • Form G-1145. Use this form if you wish to receive email or text confirmation of your receipt number. Paperclip the form to the front of the OPT application.
  • Form I-765 completed by you with your original signature.
  • Photocopies of ALL previously issued and signed I-20 documents dating back to beginning of F-1 status. This includes a copy of your new I-20 recommending Pre-Completion OPT!
  • Printout of I-94 record or front and back of paper I-94 card.
  • Photocopy f your valid passport I.D. page(s)
  • Photocopy of your most recent F-1 visa stamp (even if the visa is expired)
  • Photocopy of previous EAD card(s), if you have applied for OPT before.
  • Two U.S. passport-sized photos. In pencil, print your name and I-94 number on the back of each photo. No eyeglasses can be worn in passport photos. Passport photos can be obtained at some U.S. Post Offices, FedEx offices, and many retailers such as CVS.

STEP 4: Mail your complete application to USCIS.

  • When you have completed the entire application, make a complete photocopy for your files and send the entire application to USCIS.
  • Mail the application to one of two USCIS lockboxes. You must mail the application to the USCIS office that has jurisdiction over the address you have used on #3 of the I-765 form. IPO strongly recommneds that you send the application via an express mail carrier (FedEx or UPS) so that you have a tracking number and signature noting proof of delivery.
  • Mail the application so USCIS receives it before the application deadlines:
    • No more than 90 days before your requested OPT start date.
    • Within 30 days of the date IPO made the OPT recommendation in SEVIS.

STEP 5: Wait for the EAD.

Within one month of sending the application to the USCIS, you should get a standard receipt notice. The “Receipt Number” in the top left corner of this receipt notice can be used to check the status of your case on the USCIS website at or by calling the phone number indicated on the receipt. Keep in mind that this information is updated infrequently. You CANNOT begin working until you have received your EAD and are within the start and end dates printed on the card.