Skip to content
International Student Services

Pre-Completion OPT

What is Pre-Completion OPT?

“Pre-Completion” Optional Practical Training is used while you are still enrolled in your degree. Pre-Completion OPT is deducted from the 12 months of OPT available each degree level. Pre-Completion OPT is rare: most students save OPT to use after program completion (Post-Completion OPT).

Pre-Completion OPT is only used when:

  • Your OPT start and end date will be during your studies (not after graduation).
  • You have a training opportunity but might not be eligible for CPT.

If you are graduating soon and need OPT approval to work after graduation, you must apply for Post-Completion OPT.

Students who are not graduating soon and need authorization for an internship, practicum, or other work/training related to your studies, first consider Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

Master’s and Doctoral Students: It is possible to apply for Post-Completion OPT while still completing your thesis. This is different from 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 OPT during your enrolled course of study.
  • You have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year (three quarters).
  • You are in a major. Pre-major students are not eligible for Pre-Completion OPT.
  • 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.

Although you do not need a job offer to apply, we advise you to have a job offer to ensure you use the benefit. Authorized pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 months of full-time OPT available.


Pre-Completion OPT Authorization
Part-Time Up to 20 hours per week. During your full-time enrollment quarters. 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 vacation quarter and between quarter breaks.
Thesis/Dissertation Students: Full-time More than 20 hours per week. While you are enrolled in thesis/dissertation credits after you complete all other course requirements.

When to Apply

  • You may request the OPT I-20 from ISS up to 90 days before your requested employment start date.
  • For the OPT, I-20, check MyISSS processing times.
  • After you receive the OPT I-20 from ISS, you will apply for OPT through U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. Check current USCIS processing times.

Steps to Apply

Step 1: Consult an ISS adviser.

Discuss your Pre-Completion OPT plans with an ISS adviser.

Step 2: Request your Pre-Completion OPT I-20 from ISS.

  • Do not apply for Pre-Completion OPT with USCIS before you get your OPT I-20 from ISS. USCIS will deny the application.
  • Choose your planned Pre-Completion OPT start and end dates.
    • 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.
  • Optional: complete a draft version of your online or paper I-765 for an ISS advisor to review. DO NOT submit your I-765 application to USCIS before receiving an OPT I-20 from UW ISS.
  • Log into MyISSS to request a Pre-Completion OPT I-20.

Step 3: Receive your Pre-Completion OPT I-20 from ISS.

  • You must receive a signed Pre-Completion OPT I-20 from ISS before you submit you OPT application to USCIS.
  • The ISS recommendation for Pre-Completion OPT will appear on page 2 of the I-20.

Step 4: Submit your I-765 application to USCIS.

Review the USCIS application instructions. The eligibility category code for Pre-Completion OPT is (c)(3)(A).

After You Submit Your Pre-Completion OPT Application to USCIS

RFEs, Returned, or Denied Applications

If you receive a “Request for Evidence” (RFE), returned application, or denied application, contact ISS immediately. ISS might need to provide a new I-20 before you can respond to the USCIS inquiry or resubmit your OPT application.

USCIS Case Status, Processing Times, and Expedites

If you submit your OPT application online, you will receive a receipt notice immediately. If you mail a paper application, USCIS will mail you a receipt notice (I-797 Notice of Action) confirming receipt of your OPT application, assigning a receipt date and case number.

You may use the case number on your receipt notice to check the status of your application online.

It is normal for your case status to say ‘case received’ for most of the USCIS processing period.

USCIS rarely expedites OPT applications. ISS cannot contact USCIS on your behalf to request expedited processing; OPT applications are between you and USCIS.

Starting Work

You may not begin employment until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and the approved OPT start date is known. Authorized OPT dates will be on your EAD.

OPT employment must be directly related to your major area of study.

You are not required to report your employment to ISS or through the SEVP portal for Pre-Completion OPT. That is only a Post-Completion OPT requirement.

Note: You must file a separate application for Post-Completion OPT if you want to work after graduation.