F-1 Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Quick Information & Links
Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an authorization that allows F-1 students to work off campus in a position directly related to their field of study during their program of study. OPT is an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the degree program to off-campus positions in their major field.
Step 1. Determine Your Eligibility & Learn the Conditions of this F-1 Benefit
- Complete the required Pre-Completion Practical Training (OPT)* module and quiz in Canvas. A 100% score is required as proof of completion. Once you finish the quiz and have the results, click on Grades and then click the Print icon in the top right corner to download the Grade Report as a PDF.
- *Note: OGS offers in-person workshops on these topics, but they do not satisfy the requirement of familiarizing oneself with an authorization prior to requesting it. These remain a useful forum to explore complex questions and scenarios.
- Full-time status for one full academic year
- Good academic standing
- No job offer letter required
- F-1 students are eligible 12 months total OPT at each degree level
- Work permitted up to 20 hours per week during academic year
- Work permitted full time during official university breaks and vacations
- All employment must be directly related to the major field of study
Step 2. Submit OPT Request Form to OGS
- Review the Pre-Completion OPT FAQs for help in choosing start dates and other questions about OPT before submitting your request.
- Complete the OPT Request Form (PDF).
- Download your most recent I-94 Record.
- Pre-Completion OPT Quiz results.
- Submit the completed OPT Request Form, I-94 Record, and Pre-Completion OPT Quiz results to your IS Advisor (in-person submissions are not accepted).
- Within 3-5 business days, OGS will recommend OPT and issue a new Form I-20 to be included in the USCIS OPT application. Incomplete letters will delay I-20 issuance.
Step 3. Choose USCIS Filing Method & Prepare Documentation
Applicants must choose whether to file Form I-765 by mail or online.
- Filing online results in faster issuance of the case receipt number.
- USCIS processing time for final adjudication is the same for both filing methods.
- Applicants must not mix filing methods; duplicate applications may be denied.
- Documentation requirements differ slightly for each filing method.
- If filing online, document files must be in JPG, JPEG, PDF, TIF, or TIFF format. Ensure the images are clear and readable. Do not encrypt or password-protect files.
- If filing by mail, make photocopies of your passport, visa, Form I-20(s), and previous EAD(s) to submit with your application.
The following documentation is required to apply for this authorization:
- Form I-765 Filing Fee: Verify current amount on the USCISI-765 website.
- If filing online, use a credit or debit card.
- If filing by mail: Money order; personal check (OGS sample [PDF]), cashier’s check; or Form G-1450* for debit/credit card payment. *OGS has observed numerous rejected card payments and recommends using another payment method if possible. If paying by card, refer to the USCIS Instructions for Form G-1450 and the USCIS Pay With a Credit Card website. Applicants using a non-card payment method must not submit Form G-1450.
- Form I-765: Regardless of filing method, applicants should reference the OGS OPT FAQs and OGS Sample I-765 (PDF) for detailed instructions.
- If filing online, if you are not creating a new USCIS account to file the I-765 at this time, log in and check your profile address. If it does not match the U.S. mailing address you will list in your Pre-Completion OPT I-765, we recommend submitting a change of address through USCIS (new window) before submitting the I-765 to ensure the correct address is appearing in all USCIS systems and will be used for shipment of your EAD card.
- Passport photo(s) taken within 30 days
- If filing online, upload the photo.
- If filing by mail, provide two photos. OGS recommends writing your name and SEVIS ID on the back of each photo in pencil.
- Image of new Form I-20 (with OPT recommendation on page 2)
- Images of all previous Form I-20s
- Students missing previous I-20s can write a letter explaining key details of their SEVIS history (Sample Missing Form I-20s Letter [.DOC]).
- Images of previous Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), if any
- Image of passport biographic page
- Image of F-1 visa
- Most recent I-94 proof of status
- If filing by mail, Form G-1145 is recommended for text/email notification of application receipt.
Step 4. Submit USCIS Application
- Both filing methods have the same deadline: OGS must first issue the Form I-20 recommending OPT, and USCIS must receive your application no later than 30 days after OGS’s dated signature on page 1. Applications received after the deadline are denied. Avoid risk of missing the filing deadline and request a new Form I-20 from OGS if necessary.
- Applicants should keep evidence of the exact documentation submitted to USCIS. If filing by mail, make a copy of all application materials. If filing online, take screenshots of all information entered and documentation uploaded before final submission.
- If filing by mail, find the applicable USCIS Lockbox address.
- OGS recommends saving tracking confirmation of timely delivery.
- If filing online, create or sign into your USCIS account.
- Select: Application for Employment Authorization (I-765).
- Complete and review all applicable sections; read and sign the applicant’s agreement; digitally sign your application; pay the fee and submit.
- There may be a one-day delay before payment is processed. Submit your application before the deadline to ensure the application is received on time.
- OGS cannot help troubleshoot technical issues with online filing.
- Select: Application for Employment Authorization (I-765).
How to Create an USCIS Online Account
Step 5. Manage Pending Application
- Read the OGS Pre-Completion OPT FAQs for advice on how to handle issues that might occur during the pendency of the OPT application.
- Sign up for U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Informed Delivery for advance notice of mail from USCIS.
- USCIS confirms receipt of mailed applications by issuing Form I-797C. Verify all information on this notice is correct; contact OGS if you find any mistakes.
- Monitor your application via the USCIS Case Status website. Average processing time is 90 days, and status may not change from received for most of the pendency.
- Do not begin any paid/unpaid training activities until you receive the EAD and reach the start date printed on the card.
- Contact OGS if you receive any USCIS correspondence other than confirmation of receipt/approval.
- Prepare to receive your EAD card via USPS Signature Confirmation Restricted Delivery.
Step 6. Report OPT Activities to OGS
Email the below information to your IS Advisor (new window) (new window) for each paid and unpaid position you hold during this authorization.
- Scan/photo of both front and back of EAD card
- Employer name
- Employer address
- Employment dates
- Explanation of direct relationship to your major (undergraduates) or degree (graduate students)
Questions about the OPT application materials or process?