Optional Practical Training before completion of a student’s program of study is called Pre-Completion OPT. Pre-Completion OPT may be authorized to an F-1 student who has lawfully enrolled in an academic program on a full time basis for 1 full academic year. Students with approved Pre-Completion OPT may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students may be authorized to work full time when school is not in session if they are eligible to register for the next semester and plan to do so, and for students who have completed all degree requirements except for their thesis or dissertation.
Pre-Completion OPT may be available in the following circumstances:
- During a student’s annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session if he/she is eligible to register for the next semester and intends to do so.
- While school is in session, provided that OPT does not exceed 20 hours per week.
- A student who has completed all coursework except for their thesis or dissertation, can apply for either part-time or full-time Pre-completion OPT.
The student’s program end date usually determines whether they request Pre- or Post-Completion OPT. Pre-Completion OPT is authorized before the student’s program end date. Post-Completion OPT is authorized after the student’s program end date.
Students are eligible for a total of 12 month’s full-time OPT for each degree level completed. Both Pre- and Post-Completion OPT are counted against this 12 month total. Part-time OPT is deducted from the 12 month total at the rate of one-half the full-time rate.
OPT Application Procedure
- Make an appointment with an advisor and bring the following to the OIA:
- A recommendation letter from the student’s academic advisor or department chairperson (a sample letter can be found in the OPT application packet available in the OIA).
- USCIS Form I-765 completed; indicating (c)(3)(A) in item 16.
- Photocopies of current and previous I-20s.
- Photocopies of information pages of passport, visa page and Form I-94
- After reviewing the material listed above, and confirming eligibility for Post Completion OPT, the advisor will recommend the student for OPT and issue an I-20 with an OPT recommendation.
- Once receiving the I-20 with the recommendation, the student will submit the following documents to USCIS:
- Original Form I-765
- Original I-20 with OPT recommendation.
- Photocopies of all previous I-20s.
- Photocopy of Form I-94, front and back.
- Photocopy of information pages of passport and visa page.
- Two photos meeting USCIS specifications; see attached examples.
- Check or money order for $410 payable to The Department of Homeland Security.
- Mail the documents by certified mail with return receipt to the following address:
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
If using express package (FedEx, UPS) deliveries:
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
Once an application packet has been received by USCIS, it may take 60-90 days to complete processing. Student’s are not allowed to begin employment until they receive their EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card in the mail. Please allow sufficient time for processing.
Special Consideration for Thesis/Dissertation Students
Students with only a thesis or dissertation to complete may apply for either Pre-Completion or Post-Completion OPT while completing work on the thesis or dissertation. According to the SEVP Policy Guidance on OPT, dated 4/10/09, if a student in this situation applies for Pre-Completion OPT, he or she:
- May work full time.
- Is not subject to the unemployment provisions, and may receive a program extension.
- May not apply for the STEM extension from a period of Pre- Completion OPT.
- Would not be eligible for the cap-gap extension of OPT.
Alternatively, if a student in this situation applies for Post-Completion OPT, he or she:
- May work full time.
- Would be eligible for the cap-gap extension.
- May apply for the STEM extension if otherwise eligible.
- Would be subject to the unemployment provisions.
- Would be unable to receive an extension of his or her program.
If a student applies for and receives 12 months of Post-Completion Optional Practical Training and does not complete their thesis or dissertation, the student must prepare to either change status, begin a new program of study, or depart the country prior to the end of their grace period.