Pre-completion OPT is Optional Practical Training you use before finishing your program of study. Remember, OPT is employment that is directly related to your major field of study and is only for students in F-1 status.
How many hours per week can you work?
Fall or Spring Semester
You can get authorized for pre-completion OPT on a part-time basis only (20 hours or less per week) during the fall or spring semester while engaged in course work.
Master's Thesis or Doctoral Dissertaion
If you are working on a master's thesis/project or doctoral dissertation following completion of all coursework you can get authorization for either a part-time or full-time basis (anything more than 20 hours per week).
During holiday periods (such as the summer and winter breaks) you can be authorized for either a part-time or full-time basis (anything more than 20 hours per week).
When to apply
If you have been a full-time student for MORE than one academic year and are currently in F-1 status, you may apply for pre-completion OPT up to 90 days before you want your OPT to start. If you are in F-1 status and have been a full-time student for LESS than one academic year, you may apply for pre-completion OPT up to 90 days before you will have completed one academic year. However, your OPT cannot begin until you have completed the full academic year.
How to apply
Download and print this required Pre-Completion OPT checklist Part 1. Use it as your guide to complete the OPT application process and be sure to follow it closely. If you’re missing anything on the checklist it could mean your OPT will be denied.
Here’s an overview of the entire process but be sure to use the checklist for all the required steps.
Applying for pre-completion OPT requires preparation to make sure you have all the right items for a smooth and successful application process. Watch the online pre-completion OPT workshop or attend an in-person workshop with an OGS advisor. Download and complete the OGS F-1 OPT recommendation form. Then gather and prepare all the items you need for your OPT application.
Attend and watch the OPT workshop
Get tips on making a successful OPT application and reminders on what you need to do while you are on OPT to maintain your F-1 status. You can either watch the online pre-completion OPT workshop OR attend an in-person workshop with an OGS advisor listed on our Events Calendar.
Download and complete the OGS F-1 OPT Recommendation Form.
Fill out the top half of the form and ask your academic advisor, dean, department chair or program coordinator to fill out the bottom half of the form. For help on completing the form, see the OPT Recommendation Form explained.
Gather and prepare these items for your OPT application:
- A check or money order for $380 made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. If paying by check, be sure that your name and address are pre-printed on it. If you have to hand write in either your name or address on the check then we recommend getting a money order instead.
- A completed Form I-765; Be sure to review our I-765 explained so that you fill out the form correctly. It’s best to type your information into the form, print it, then sign it in blue ink.
- A completed Form G-1145.
- Photocopies of all your previously issued I-20s; include I-20s from previous schools if applicable. You will also need to include a photocopy of the new I-20 with the OPT recommendation on it (see Step 5). If you are missing any I-20, review these instructions.
- A photocopy of your F-1 visa (except for citizens of Canada and Bermuda)
- Your printed I-94 record, clearly indicating that you are in F-1 status
- A photocopy of your passport identification page, clearly indicating your passport name, nationality, date of birth, and the passport expiration date
- Two passport-style photographs (name, date of birth, I-94 card number and SEVIS number written on the back)
- Photocopies of any previously-issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD), if applicable.
Bring your Part 1 OPT Checklist cover sheet, a completed OPT Recommendation Form and copies (not originals) of all of your OPT application materials (see step 3) to the OGS reception desk. You must use the Part 1 OPT checklist as the cover sheet for your application. An OGS advisor will review your application and issue your new I-20. This can take up to 10 business days to process. The OGS will send an email to your NYU email address when your new I-20 is ready.
Pick up your new I-20 at the OGS once you receive an email telling you that your new I-20 is ready. You will receive Part 2 of the OPT checklist with your new I-20.
Once you have received an updated I-20 with the OPT recommendation, make sure to sign your new I-20 in section #11 of the document, photocopy pages 1 and 3, include the photocopy of your new I-20 with the rest of your OPT application materials (Step 3) and make any suggested changes to your OPT application as recommended by an OGS advisor.
• Incomplete or incorrect applications can cause serious delays so go over the checklist one more time and make sure you’ve included everything.
• Make sure to include the original check / money order, original photos and original I-765. Everything else should be a copy.
• Keep a photocopy of your complete OPT application for your records.
Send your application to USCIS by FedEx or UPS. USCIS must receive it within 30 days of the date your I-20 was issued.
Mail your application to:
USCIS, Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business, Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
Receive an electronic receipt from USCIS within 2-3 weeks and a paper receipt within 3-5 weeks.
Check your status
• Once you get your receipt notice, check your case status with your receipt number at www.uscis.gov.
• Your approval notice and EAD (OPT card) should arrive within 3 months.
Let us know
• if you do not receive both receipts within these timelines
• if you notice any mistakes on your EAD
• if you get a denial or request for more information from USCIS
If you don't already have a Social Security number, you must have one to get paid. Once you are authorized for OPT, submit your application for a Social Security number. Learn more about how to apply for a Social Security number.