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Pre-completion OPT

​Pre-completion Optional Practical Training is available to F-1 students prior to the completion of their program of study. This allows an F-1 student to work off-campus in a position related to their program of study while they are working toward completion of their program. Note that authorization for pre-completion OPT will negatively impact eligibility for post-completion OPT, so make sure to consider all options very carefully before applying. If you have an internship offer and need to work off-campus to complete requirements related to your program of study, please review the information on the curricular practical training page instead. If you are graduating, see the information on post-completion OPT instead.

General guidelines

In order to apply for pre-completion OPT, you must:

  1. Be in lawful F-1 status at the time of filing.
  2. Have completed a full course of study for at least one academic year or will have met this requirement by the time your requested start date of OPT has been reached.
  3. Not have engaged in more than 12 months of full time curricular practical training.
  4. Not have been previously authorized for 12 months of OPT at your current degree level.

NOTE: You do not need to have a pending job offer to apply for pre-completion OPT.

Once approved for pre-completion OPT, you must:

  1. Continue to maintain F-1 status throughout the duration of your pre-completion OPT experience, including continuing to enroll full time toward completion of your program.
  2. Not engage in work of more than 20 hours each week while classes are in session (students may work full time only during periods of earned vacation and official school breaks).
  3. Not exceed the allotted time of work authorization that USCIS has permitted on your EAD card.
  4. Continue to report all changes in address and legal name; in addition, changes in employment must be reported to the Office of Global Engagement using the ISSS portal through the OPT Employer Update request.

NOTE ABOUT ELIGIBILITY FOR POST-COMPLETION OPT: F-1 students are permitted to engage in OPT for up to 12 months. This can be used entirely through pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT, or can be split between pre-completion and post-completion. Any days of pre-completion OPT will deduct days of eligibility from post-completion OPT (part time days will deduct one half day and full time days will deduct one full day). Additionally, engaging in 12-months of full-time curricular practical training will make an F-1 student entirely ineligible for OPT, both pre-completion and post-completion.

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.​

Pre-completion OPT application procedure

Step 1: Meet with an OGE advisor to plan ahead and discuss options

Before proceeding any further with your pre-completion OPT plans, please schedule an appointment with an OGE advisor to discuss your intentions and to consider all options. Your online application will not be accepted until you've met with an OGE advisor. OPT advising appointments can be booked here.  

Step 2: Complete the OPT I-20 request

To complete the OPT I-20 request, log into the ISSS portal and complete OPT request. 


Step 3: Pick up OPT I-20 at OGE front desk 

You will receive an email when your OPT I-20 is ready for pick up. This process may take 7 - 10 business days. 

Please carefully read the pick up procedure below.

  1. Be prepared to show your CMU student ID to the front desk staff. OPT I-20s will not be given to friends or relatives.
  2. The front desk staff will give you your I-20. Please note the OPT I-20s are not in the baskets at the OGE.
  3. You will be asked to complete the OPT Recommendation I-20 Review Form to verify the information on your I-20 is accurate.
  4. You will sign and give the OPT Recommendation I-20 Review Form to the OGE front desk before leaving the OGE.

As a reminder, your OPT I-765 application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the OPT Recommendation I-20 issuance. The date of issuance can be found on page 1 of the I-20 next to the DSO signature.

Step 4: Complete the I-765 on USCIS's portal

To access the I-765 form, visit USCIS's portal. 

Please note that the OPT application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the OPT I-20 being issued (on page 1 of the I-20 by the Designated School Official's signature.

Once an application has been received by USCIS, it may take 90 or more days to complete processing. Premium processing is available for OPT applications and can be filed at any time for an additional fee. Students are not allowed to begin employment until they receive the EAD in the mail and the start date has been reached. Please allow sufficient time for processing.​​