Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training may be used before graduation. It is meant to supplement your academic experience with practical experience.
Optional Practical Training is an F-1 student benefit granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It allows you to work off-campus in a job related to your major. It is meant to supplement your academic experience with practical experience.
To be eligible for Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training, you must document that:
If applying for Pre-Completion OPT during the academic semester (Fall/Spring) you must be enrolled full-time. You are not eligible for Pre-Completion OPT during the semester in which you are approved for an Academic Reduced Course Load.
If you re-enter the U.S. using an Initial I-20 (i.e. an I-20 with a new SEVIS ID number), you are not eligible for Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training until you complete one academic year (two semesters) as a full-time student after returning from your leave. Time spent as a full-time student prior to taking a Leave of Absence cannot be used to satisfy this requirement.
Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training may be used during any of the following situations:
a. during the Fall/Spring semester
b. during summer and winter break
c. After completing all course requirements, while working on one’s thesis or dissertation
At the time of application, you must choose part-time or full-time (if eligible for either). It is not possible to change the maximum number of hours per week after submitting your application.
In general, you choose the start date and end date. However, keep in mind that USCIS processing times can vary; average processing times are generally 3 months.
The dates of any full-time Pre-Completion OPT must align with a semester since ISS must confirm that you meet one of the requirements above*. For example, if you want a full-time summer Pre-OPT, your start date must be after the Spring semester ends. The end date must be before the Fall semester begins.
*PhD students interested in Pre-Completion OPT should consult with ISS.
Any full-time Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training authorization you receive is subtracted from your total 12‑month period.
Any part‑time OPT (20 hours per week or less) is deducted at the rate of one day of practical training for every two part‑time days of OPT authorized.
The earliest you can apply is 90 days before your chosen work start date.
You may submit your application up to 90 days prior to completing one academic year of study, provided that the period of employment will not begin until the completion of the full academic year.
Your application must be received by the USCIS within 30 days of the OPT recommendation in SEVIS and the signature on your Form I-765 (if filing a paper application). If your OPT application does not comply with this requirement, YOU WILL LOSE YOUR OPT BENEFIT.
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There are two methods to file your I-765 with USCIS, a paper I-765 you submit by mail or online with a USCIS online account. Since OPT is a personal application, it is your choice which method you use. Both options cost the same, and the overall processing times are also generally the same.
Many students choose to use the online system because the Receipt Notice is created immediately, documents issued by USCIS (like the receipt notice or any requests for evidence) are available directly in the online system, and applying for OPT online via MyUSCIS is a great way to mitigate the risk of rejection because the online form ensures the application is signed electronically and the correct fee is paid.
You must choose only one method for your application. Do not submit multiple OPT applications to USCIS without first speaking to an ISS advisor to discuss your situation.
If you choose to submit your application using the MyUSCIS online system, do NOT submit your application (i.e. submit payment) until after you have uploaded your OPT I-20. Remember, getting an OPT I-20 from ISS is the first step!
1) the issuance of your I-20 with OPT recommendation, and
2) the signature on your Form I-765.
If an application is received by the USCIS more than 30 days after, the application may be denied.
We strongly encourage you to update your address with USCIS to ensure you receive all correspondence and benefits from us in a timely manner and avoid possible delays related to your case. In addition, all noncitizens must report a change of address to USCIS within 10 days (except A and G visa holders and visa waiver visitors) of moving.
Changing your address with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will not change your address with USCIS. You must update your information with both USCIS and USPS. If you need to change your address with the USPS, you may update it through the USPS website or visit your nearest post office.
Do not use this request to change your address if:
If you fall under any of the listed categories, read more about how you should change your address.
Before you begin, make sure you have enough time and the required information to complete the form in one session. Once you start your request, you must not close this window or navigate away from the page. If you do not complete your request in one session, your responses will not be saved, you will lose all progress, and you will need to begin a new Change Your Address request.
You may also use this tool if you do not have any pending cases and have moved to a new address, and need to update USCIS about where you live.
Currently, processing time at the USCIS can be as long as 5 months. However, processing times vary widely, depending on the time of year and workload at the Service Center to which you send your application. We encourage you to regularly review the processing times found on the USCIS website.
If you have a job offer and 120 days has passed since the Receipt Date on your I797 Receipt Notice, you may contact us for assistance. We can inquire with USCIS about the status of your application. However, we cannot guarantee that our inquiry will result in an expedite or change in processing times.
Once you have waited 150 days, or beyond the current maximum published USCIS processing times, we recommend that you take the following actions:
Premium processing, which provides expedited processing, is available for OPT applications with USCIS. Please refer to USCIS's premium processing page for details on cost, eligibility, and timing.
If you do not request premium processing USCIS expedite criteria are very strict and it can be difficult to provide sufficient evidence. Having a job offer or the possibility of losing that job do not generally qualify for an expedite unless you can effectively make an argument that your situation does meet the criteria. If considering an expedite, please ensure that you have sufficient documentation and a compelling argument.
Additional information on expedite criteria and how to file can be found on the USCIS page.
We highly recommend that you keep your employer informed about the status of your OPT application. We also recommend communicating that you cannot confirm exactly when your application will be approved, but that you can provide estimated processing times. We have heard from many students whose employers agreed to change their start date multiple times due to processing delays, so it is important to discuss your situation with your employer.
If your employer wants additional information about OPT processing, they are welcome to contact ISS. If you would like your employer to speak to us about the specifics of your case, please send us an email authorizing ISS to discuss your individual situation.
You cannot begin employment until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the USCIS and the “start date” printed on the EAD card is effective.