Pre-Completion OPT FAQs

General Questions

Practical training is the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in your program of study to off-campus work in your major field. OPT is authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The authorization process takes an average of 3-5 months to be processed by USCIS. The maximum amount of time granted to work on F-1 OPT status is 12 months per degree level. F-1 students may apply to use some or all of the available 12 months of practical training during the course of study or may save some or all of the full twelve months to use after graduation. Your application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the IS Advisor signature on page 1 of the Form I-20.

To be eligible for OPT, you must: (1) have been in full-time student status for at least one academic year by the requested start date of your OPT, and (2) be maintaining valid F-1 status at the time of the application, and (3) have not used OPT at the same degree level previously.

OPT is not a different visa status. A person with OPT authorization is still an F-1 student holding an EAD for OPT.

When you possess the OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by USCIS, and the effective start date listed on the employment document has been reached.

You may use OPT while you are still in your degree program as follows: (1) part-time while school is in session, (2) full-time during annual vacation periods, and/or (3) full-time after a doctoral student completes all course requirements for the degree and has only the dissertation remaining.

These periods of OPT used before graduation will be deducted from the total allowable period of 12 months. Part-time OPT will be deducted at one-half the full-time rate.

January 5 to May 5 is four full months. However, since students are only permitted to work part time (no more than 20 hours per week) during the semester, you would only lose 2 full months of OPT.

Application Process

Authorization for OPT is granted by USCIS and processing takes an average of 3 to 5 months. Therefore, it is important that you apply for the authorization well in advance of the date you wish to start working. You may apply up to 90 days before the start date that you choose. Your application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the IS Advisor signature on page 1 of the Form I-20.

Guidance provided by Georgetown University’s Office of Global Services (OGS) and International Student & Scholar Services.

*Note: Form I-765 must always be retrieved from the USCIS website to ensure use of the most current version.

General guidelines:

  • Read the instructions carefully and keep them by your side as you complete the Form I-765. Some application requirements are only listed in the instructions and are not listed on the I-765 itself. Find the instructions on the USCIS website.
  • Use the OGS Sample Form I-765 (PDF) as a general guide. Answer all questions as they pertain to your specific situation.
  • Submit all pages of the form – even if some pages do not pertain to you.
  • Type your responses and print the form.
  • Sign the I-765 in black ink. A typed or stamped name is not acceptable.
  • If a question does not apply to you, leave it blank while you complete the form and then write either N/A (short for “not applicable”) or None in black after printing. See the OGS Sample Form I-765 (PDF).
  • Make several copies of the Part 6 page in case you must provide additional information.
  • Use Part 6 Additional Information if you need more space for a response to a specific question. If you provide any information on this page, write your name at the top and sign and date each page.
  • See the OGS Sample I-765 (PDF) for difficulty with any questions, especially the additional information required in Part 6.
  • Do the application documents have to be in any specific order? Follow the order listed in the I-765 filing instructions.
  • Should I put my name on the back of the photos? Yes, use a felt tip pen or print lightly in pencil. You should not be able to see any markings on the front of the photos.
  • EADs will be mailed using the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Signature Confirmation Restricted Delivery, which requires identification to sign for the document upon delivery. You will have the options to arrange for pick up at a post office or designate a person to sign for delivery on your behalf, including agents at a hotel, apartment or other rental.
  • If the mailing address you indicated on the I-765 application changes after you submitted the application, follow the instructions on the USCIS Change of Address Information website. You should also file an online change of address with the postal service on the USPS website.

 Applicants can provide their own address or the mailing address of a third party on Form I-765. OGS recommends using an address that will not change for several months (U.S. addresses only). Students whose housing will change while the OPT application is pending should consider using the address of a trusted friend or family member to receive USCIS correspondence.

It is best to use a mailing address on the Form I-765 that will be valid through EAD delivery and to avoid changes to the mailing address, if at all possible. Applicants who need to change the mailing address associated with their pending Form I-765 application must notify both USPS and USCIS. USPS does not forward USCIS mail.

After 90 days, your IS Advisor contact the USCIS Service Center processing your application to request information about your case.

Yes, you may request that the OPT application be withdrawn and the recommendation in SEVIS be cancelled, but only if you have recently mailed it to the USCIS. Contact your IS Advisor as soon as possible if you need to cancel the OPT application. Once your OPT application has been approved by USCIS, it cannot be cancelled or revoked.

Submit a USCIS E-Request and contact OGS. If USCIS provides U.S. Postal Service tracking information that confirms delivery, contact your local U.S. Post Office to inquire about the missing mail. Students who live in a multi-unit residence should check with their neighbors and/or building mailroom for misplaced envelopes.

While on OPT

You will lose the time requested but there are no other consequences.

Pre-completion OPT does not have any restrictions on paid or unpaid employment. However, if the position is genuinely charitable volunteer work, you may not need work authorization and should speak with an IS Advisor

No! Working before OPT has been authorized by USCIS constitutes illegal employment that will jeopardize your legal status in the United States.

As of the start date on your EAD card, you can start your internship/job and apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) if needed. Please follow the OPT reporting instructions in Step 5 .

USCIS offers an avenue for inquiry into non-delivery of the card. However, the most likely outcome of this ‘e-request’ is that USCIS will not take responsibility for the non-delivery, and will instead instruct you to apply for a replacement card.

You may consider it more time-effective to simply proceed with the replacement card application:

  1. Prepare the following materials to include with your replacement application:
    • A cover page (we recommend using brightly colored paper) indicating the reason for your application (e.g. ‘Never Received Card’)
    • A brief letter to USCIS explaining the circumstances for your application and the hardship you have suffered.
    • A copy of the Form I-797 Approval Notice that you received in the mail.
    • A new Form I-20 from OGS indicating your authorization approval on Page 2.
  2. Adding the above materials, prepare and send an application* following the instructions in Step 3 on the relevant Pre-Completion OPT webpage.
    • Please make the following indications on the Form I-765:
    • Check item 1.b. instead of item 1.a.
    • In item 12, answer yes.
    • If you are not already enrolled, we strongly recommend signing up for USPS Informed Delivery, as it will hopefully increase the likelihood that your next card reaches you successfully.
  3. Within a few weeks of submitting your application for replacement, you will receive a new Form I-797 Receipt Notice, which can be used to temporarily meet the Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification requirements. The USCIS Employee Rights website hay help you navigate the challenges you face without an EAD card.

The Receipt Notice may also be valid for re-entry to the United States in place of the EAD, but we recommend contacting an immigration attorney for guidance in such complex circumstances.

An employee may present a receipt for the application for the replacement of any List A, List B, or List C document for I-9 purposes. This receipt is valid for 90 days from the date of hire (meaning, first day of work for pay) or in the case of re-verification, 90 days from the date employment authorization expired. Within 90- days, the employee must show you the replacement document for which the receipt was given.

Additional resources:

Yes. As long as the employment is related to your field of study, you can work for any and all employers.


YES! The primary reason for your stay in the United States is still your full-time study. You can travel as you did before applying for OPT.