Eligibility and Requirements

  • Pre-completion OPT is OPT for which you are authorized before you complete your program of study. It is available after you have completed one academic year of study.
  • The application process is very similar to the process for applying for post-completion OPT. For pre-completion OPT applications, the code with USCIS is (c)(3)(A).
  • You may apply for pre-completion OPT up to 90 days before your chosen start date. Your chosen start date must be AFTER you will have completed your full academic year, so it is possible that you may apply prior to completing your full academic year. No employer is required at the time of application. You will need to specify the exact dates you wish to be authorized to work.
  • Pre-completion OPT may be authorized for up to 20 hours per week while classes are in session. Pre-completion OPT may be full-time (over 20 hours per week) when classes are not in session, generally during the summer break.
  • There are no extensions (Cap-gap or STEM) available for pre-completion OPT.
  • Pre-completion OPT will be counted toward the 12-month OPT allowance. Part-time pre-completion OPT will count ½, and full-time pre-completion OPT will count full. For example, if you are authorized for 2 months of part-time pre-completion OPT, you will only have 11 months remaining to use following the completion of your program of study. If you are authorized for 2 months of full-time pre-completion OPT, you will only have 10 months remaining to use following the completion of your program.
  • Part-time (up to 20 hours per week) OPT is permitted while school is in session, but the student must maintain a full course load.
  • While participating in pre-completion OPT, there is no unemployment restriction. In other words, you may be authorized for pre-completion OPT even if you never actually work. However, the time for which you are authorized will be deducted from your 12-month allowance, whether you work or not.
  • It may take USCIS 90 days to process your application, so plan accordingly. You may not begin your work until your application has been approved and your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) has been received.
  • Like all other forms of OPT the employment must be directly related to the major field of study.

Online Application Process

  1. Complete the OPT Advisor’s E-Form (via iStart) which will be electronically signed by your academic advisor. Check UIS Enterprise prior to submitting the E-Form – make sure your address and emergency contact are up to date, all holds have been removed, and you have completed your graduation application. Once your OPT Advisor E-Form has been submitted, a DSO will confirm your eligibility and schedule an OPT Appointment for you.
  2. Create a USCIS Online Account.
  3. DSO will provide you with a new Form I-20 via email with the OPT recommendation. Make sure to print and sign page 1 of your Form I-20. USCIS requires your original signature and you must retain original I-20 for your records.
  4. Gather and scan all required documents. See I-765 Online Filing Evidence webpage. We recommend using the UIS ID Center for the digital passport sized photo.
  5.  File your I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Online.  Click the blue “File Online” button.
  6.  DSO will assist you with any questions regarding the I-765 at your OPT Appointment.  Do not submit until after your OPT Appointment.