Do not submit an application for OPT to USCIS without thoroughly reading the instructions below first, you cannot submit an application to USCIS without a new OPT I-20 issued by the ISSS office.
Pre-Completion OPT is requested when a student is interested in doing an internship or employment related to their major field during their program of study. Pre-completion may be a good option for a student who wants to participate in employment during their program but they are not eligible for CPT (Curricular Practical Training).
Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT per degree level (this includes both pre-completion and post-completion OPT). For example, if a student is granted 4 months of full-time pre-completion OPT, the student would have 8 months of OPT remaining to use after they graduate.
Part-time pre-completion OPT deducts from the total 12 months allowed by half. For example, if a student is granted 4 months of part-time pre-completion opt, the student would have 10 months of OPT remaining to use after they graduate.
Students may only use full-time pre-completion OPT during school breaks (such as over the summer) or once they have completed all required course requirements (such as a PhD student who completed all coursework and is only doing research full-time).
Pre-completion OPT is a separate application from post-completion OPT. If you use some pre-completion OPT, and then later want to use the rest of your OPT post-completion, you will need to file a separate application and pay a separate application fee.
If you are a Master's or PhD student who has already completed all course requirements and will be finishing your final research requirements within the next year, you may want to apply for post-completion OPT instead. Students in these specific situations can apply for post-completion OPT as long as they obtain their degree before the 12 months of post-completion OPT expires.
- Students are eligible to apply for OPT to begin upon completion of their first academic year of study in their program (a fall and spring semester).
- Time spent studying full-time in a status other than F-1: an F-1 student need not have been specifically in F-1 status while studying, provided he or she was lawfully enrolled as a full-time student at a service-approved school in another nonimmigrant status that does not prohibit full-time study (such as H-4). You must be in F-1 status at the time you submit your applicaion for OPT to the USCIS.
- Students may apply for pre-completion OPT up to 90 days before the requested OPT start date. Students choose the start and end date for pre-completion OPT. Note: Although you are permitted to apply for pre-completion OPT within 90 days of the requested start date, USCIS can take longer than this period of time to process your application (sometimes up to 5 months). For current USCIS processing times, please click here (choose I765 under forms and Potomac Service Center under field office).
- Students can file the I-765 no more than 90 days before the student will have been in F-1 status. For example, if you wish to begin your pre-completion OPT on June 1st of your first academic year, you can apply March 1st during your second, spring, semester.
1. There are a list of documents you are required to gather for the OPT application. To see the list of required documents, please click on the "Application Documents" tab to the right.
2. You will submit copies of these documents to the online OPT application for our office for review. You also will be asked to provide the contact information of your academic advisor in the online OPT request form. Once you submit your form, your academic advisor will receive an e-mail to complete their form. Their form will ask basic questions about your academic program. We cannot process your OPT application until your academic advisor completes their form. It is your responsibility to ensure your academic advisor is aware they will need to complete this form.
3. Our office will review the documents and issue you a new I-20 for the OPT application to USCIS. This process takes 5-7 business days.
4. You will receive an e-mail from the ISSS advisor that has processed your OPT I-20 with instructions for the next steps.
5. You will mail the OPT application documents along with the new OPT I-20 to USCIS.
6. USCIS will receipt your application within 2 to 4 weeks. You will receive a receipt notice in the mail with a case number.
7. USCIS will process your application in approximately 1-5 months (processing times vary), you can check the status of your application online and see average processing times online here (choose I765 under form type and Potomac Service Center until field office).
8. Once USICS approves your application, you will receive an approval notice and an EAD (employment authorization document) card in the mail. The EAD is your proof of work authorization for your future employer.
Below is a list of the required documents you will need for your OPT application. Please prepare these documents first, then you will upload copies of these documents online for our office to review:
- Form I‐765: The pdf form is available at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765. Do not click the "file online" button! Make sure you download and complete the pdf version of the form (scroll down towards the bottom of the page under the Forms and Document Downloads section to download the pdf).
- We will review the pdf version of the form to make sure all responses are entered correctly.
- After we issue the OPT I-20, you can then choose to file online with USCIS, you will not need the pdf version of the I-765 form for the online application. DO NOT FILE YOUR OPT APPLICATION TO USCIS ONLINE UNTIL OUR OFFICE HAS ISSUED YOU A NEW OPT I20.
- For the eligibility category question on the I-765, it is (c)(3)(A) for pre-completion OPT.
- Form G-1145: See Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (this form is optional but recommended) *Only needed if filing to USCIS by mail
- If you have been granted CPT before, you must provide a copy of your CPT I-20(s).
- If you have been granted OPT before, you must provide a copy of the OPT I-20 and EAD card issued to you by USCIS for this authorization
- Application fee (currently $410.00):
- If you are filing to USCIS by mail, you may pay the fee with a money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you pay by check, you must make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Make sure the date on the check is written as “Month/Day/Year”.
- A file of a color passport-style photograph of yourself taken recently: For the criteria of the photo, please see: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/photos.html
- If you are filing to USCIS by mail, you will need two of the passport photos printed, 2 inches x 2 inches in size.
- A copy of your most recent Form I‐94 (Can be found online: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home#section)
- Copy of your unexpired passport photo and passport validity page(s). The passport must be valid. If your passport will be expiring less than 6 months from now, you must apply to renew it.