This benefit for an eligible F-1 student provides the opportunity to get real work experience prior to graduation.

An F-1 international student is eligible to receive a total of 12-months of OPT at each degree level (e.g. Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral), which can be used either before (pre-completion) or after (post-completion) degree completion. Any portion of OPT used prior to degree completion is subtracted from the 12-month total.

To apply, an international student must first request the pre-completion OPT endorsement from their designated school official and then properly file the I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with USCIS.

Student intern at the Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding

Pre-Completion OPT Eligibility

In order to be eligible to apply for Pre-Completion OPT, the following criteria must be met:

  1. Student has maintained valid F-1 student status for at least one academic year (language training and non-degree programs do not count toward one academic year requirement)
  2. Student has not been authorized for one year of full-time CPT at the current degree level
  3. Student has not been authorized for 12 months of full-time OPT (Pre or Post) at the current degree level

An eligible F-1 student can apply for pre-completion OPT within 30-days of the DSO endorsement on your Form I-20, and up to 90-days before being enrolled for one full academic year, as long as employment does not start before you have completed one full academic year.

Pre-Completion OPT employment authorization must be adjudicated by USCIS, after receiving the DSO endorsement and prior to beginning employment. Interested students should plan ahead and refer to the USCIS Case Processing Times for an estimated wait time.

A student must secure the Pre-Completion OPT endorsement from the designated school official prior to filing for OPT by completing the following actions.

  1. Obtain a letter certifying good academic standing from your academic advisor
  2. Determine your Pre-Completion OPT start and end date, considering the estimated processing time and anticipated employment. You can select full-time OPT during official university breaks or part-time during the academic year, and you can not begin employment prior to being enrolled in valid F-1 status for your academic degree level for one year.
  3. Log into the International Services Portal using your eCampus credentials and complete the request for your OPT DSO endorsement. You will need to indicate your Pre-Completion OPT start and end date, and upload your letter indicating you are in good academic standing.

Once you receive your Pre-Completion DSO endorsement, prepare your application for filing. Review the Checklist of Required Evidence and gather digital versions of all requirements to upload with your application.

  • I-20 issued within 30-days with a Pre-Completion OPT endorsement from your designated school official.
  • Evidence of previously authorized CPT (CPT authorized I-20) or OPT (EAD card)
  • Valid Passport with F-1 Visa
  • A printout of your I-94 Arrival Document
  • Recent Color passport-style photograph: Taken within 30-days on a white or off-white background measuring 2 x 2 inches, with your face measuring 1 inch to 1 3/8 inches from the chin to the top of your head. Your eyes should be between 1 1/8 inches and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the photo.

Complete the following steps to file your application for Pre-Completion OPT with USCIS.

  1. Create a USCIS Online Account or Sign In to your already existing account
  2. Select File a Form Online, choosing the I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and using the Code: Pre Completion OPT – (c)(3)(A)
  3. Complete the I-765 Form, reading all form instructions for information on completing fields. USCIS will reject or deny your form if you leave a field blank or if you do not sign your form.
  4. Upload required evidence as indicated in clear and readable, not encrypted or passport-protected, in English, and in one of the following accepted file formats: JPG, JPEG, PDF, TIF, or TIFF.
  5. Review the summary of the information you provided in your application and digitally sign your application; type your full legal name (first, middle, and last names) in the space provided.
  6. Pay the filing fee using a valid credit or debit card, or provide your bank routing and checking account numbers to have money taken directly from your U.S. bank account.
  7. After you make your payment, your form will be submitted and you will receive a receipt notice that contains your receipt number. This is a unique number that applies to your specific case with USCIS. You can find your receipt number on your online account home page, and you can find a copy of your receipt notice under the Documents tab.

To check the status of your case, log in to your USCIS online account for details on the status of your case.

USCIS will notify you if you need to respond to a Request for Evidence (RFE). Log in to your USCIS online account and go to the Documents tab to view notices and respond to the RFE.

OPT Application Help

We understand you may have questions about applying for OPT. For assistance and to have your questions answered, please see the options available.

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