Pre-completion OPT Application

1. Start and end date

Choosing a start date on Pre-completion OPT is always easiest if you’ve already lined up employment. Even if you haven’t, keep in mind the following:

Start Date

  • The start date is up to you.
  • It must be after you have completed one academic year in your program of study.
  • You cannot change your start date after applying.
  • The date you request may be altered by USCIS.
    • This only usually happens if your application is not authorized by your requested start date.

End Date

  • Your end date is up to you.
  • The maximum is 12 months.
  • If you have an expected contract end date, you can use that.
  • End dates cannot be extended, you can only apply again.
  • End dates cannot be shortened. Any unused time will not be given back.

2. Pre-completion OPT recommendation

Request your recommendation at the international student portal. In 3 – 5 days, you will receive a new I-20 with a Pre-completion OPT recommendation on the second page.

  • This document is required to apply for Pre-completion OPT.
  • The Pre-completion OPT recommendation is only valid for 30 days.

3. Form I-765

Form I-765 can be submitted online at

  • You can only submit an I-765 after receiving a Pre-completion OPT recommendation on your I-20. Submitting Form I-765 without a Pre-completion OPT recommendation will result in a denial.
  • You must submit an I-765 within 30 days of the Pre-completion OPT recommendation issue date. Submitting Form I-765 more than 30 days after the I-20 issue date will result in a denial.
  • You are responsible for correctly filing Form I-765 with USCIS. ISS can assist you with questions, but filing Form I-765, verifying your uploaded documents, and paying the I-765 filing fee are solely your responsibility.
  • Make sure you file Form I-765 under category C3A (Pre-completion OPT).

4. Waiting for authorization

After filing Form I-765, you must wait for your authorization. The average time is 90 days.

  • You cannot start employment before receiving authorization. If the authorization is taking longer than expected, you will have to explain this to your employer.
  • If you receive a request for evidence from USCIS, inform ISS and respond to USCIS.
    • Typically, these requests can be fulfilled by uploading additional documents to your pending application.

5. Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

  • After approval, you will be sent an EAD.
  • You cannot start working until you receive the EAD.
  • The EAD can take 1 – 2 weeks to arrive.
  • Use the USPS tracking number you receive from USCIS to make sure your EAD arrives.
  • If your EAD is lost in the mail, please inform ISS immediately.