Pre-Completion OPT

Pre-Completion OPT

What is Pre-Completion OPT?

"Pre-Completion" Optional Practical Training is used while you are still enrolled in your degree program. Pre-Completion OPT is deducted from the 12 months of Post Completion OPT available at each degree level. Pre-Completion OPT is rarely used: most students save their OPT to use after they complete their degree requirements. 

Pre-Completion can only be used when:

  • Your OPT start AND end date will be during your degree (not after you complete all degree requirements)
  • You have a training opportunity but might not be eligible for CPT.

If you are graduating soon and want OPT approval to work after completing your degree requirements, you should apply for Post Completion OPT

If you are not graduating soon and need authorization for an internship or practicum, please consider using Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Graduate Student- it is possible to apply for Post Completion OPT while still completing your thesis or equivalent (capstone). This is different than Pre-Completion OPT. 

Eligibility for Pre-Completion OPT

You are eligible to apply if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are currently in F-1 status.
  • You will begin and end your Pre-Completion OPT before you complete all degree requirements.
  • You have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year.
  • You have not been authorized for 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
  • You have not previously completed 12 months of full-time OPT at the same degree level.


Pre-Completion OPT can be authorized:

  • Part-time (up to 20 hours per week) during your full-time enrollment semesters. Part-time Pre-Completion OPT is deducted from the 12-month OPT availability at a 50% rate (example: 2 months of part-time pre-completion OPT equals one month of regular OPT).
  • Full-time (more than 20 hours per week) during your annual summer vacation
  • Thesis/Project/Capstone Graduate Students: Full-time (more than 20 hours per week) while you are enrolled in thesis/project/capstone, after you complete all other course requirements.

When to Apply

You may request your Pre-Completion OPT I-20 from CIE up to 90 days before your requested employment start date. 

Application Procedure

Do not apply for Pre-Completion OPT with USCIS before you get your OPT I-20 from CIE. USCIS will deny the application.

  1. Recommended- schedule an appointment with an International Student Advisor to discuss Pre-Completion OPT after reviewing the Pre-Completion OPT handout.
  2. Email CIE ( the Pre-Completion OPT I-20 Request Form once you have obtained the necessary signatures. 
    • The “start date” is the date your work permission begins. You cannot work earlier than the start date, but you can start working later.
    • The “end date” is the date your work permission ends. You cannot request an end date later than your academic program end date.
    • You cannot change the OPT dates after you file your application with USCIS.
    • Your approved start date may be different from your requested start date, based on USCIS processing times.
  3. CIE will process your request and email you the new Pre-Completion OPT Request I-20. 
    • You will need to print and sign this I-20. You are not eligible to electronically sign I-20's at this time. 
    • The recommendation for Pre-Completion OPT will appear on page 2 of the I-20
    • You must submit your application within 30 days of the new OPT I-20 issuance date.
  4. Submit your application to USCIS.
    • Please review the OPT Workshop. 
      • CHANGES- you will be using eligibility code (c)(3)(A), instead of (c)(3)(B) as stated in the workshop. You will also have to upload different evidence. Please inform CIE if you have any questions regarding this. 
  5. Wait 2-4 months to receive work authorization from USCIS. You cannot start working until you receive the EAD card and the start date printed on the EAD card. 

Reporting Employment

While reporting your employment during Pre-Completion OPT is not mandatory, we strongly recommend you do report. Please email with a subject "Pre-Completion OPT Employment Reporting" and include the following

  • Your employer name
  • Your employer address
  • Your employment start date
  • How your employment is related to your field of study
  • Your employment end date (if application)
  • A copy of your EAD card.