Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) Before Completion of Degree Requirements

Definition: Employment related to your field of study before completion of all degree requirements.  It is also referred to as Pre-completion OPT. OPT is authorized by USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) through the issuance of an EAD card (Employment Authorization Document). OPT is permitted for a period of up to a maximum of twelve months per educational level (Bachelors, Masters, etc.).

Pre-completion OPT can be authorized under any of the following condition

  1. During the annual vacation
  2. Part-time (up to 20 hours per week) during the academic year as long as you also maintain a full course load.

Eligibility: You must meet all of the following conditions:

  1. Must be a registered student in F-1 status physically in the United States at the time of application
  2. Must have been enrolled in a degree or program in lawful student status on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year
  3. You must have declared a major field of study

Procedure: Obtaining authorization for OPT is a 3-step process:

  1. Complete required application documents and submit to the DSO either in person by making an appointment  or by email to
  2. The DSO will review your application and issue you an I-20 with OPT recommendation.
  3. Mail a complete OPT application to USCIS or bring to the Center for Global Education (CGE) Office at 124 Roger Williams Hall.

Apply not more than 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year AND not more than 90 days prior to the requested employment start date that you select

Example:  A student is in a four year program and has almost completed her first academic year.  She wants to work in the summer and would like to start June 1st.  The earliest she can apply is March 3rd, which is 90 days before the June 1st OPT start date and within 90 days of the end of the academic year in mid-May.

Note: Any part-time OPT that is granted will be deducted from your total 12 months of OPT at half the rate. For example, 4 months of Part-time OPT will be counted as 2 months.

You should apply for OPT as early as is permitted because approval of your application by USCIS may require the full 90 days.  You may not begin employment until you have the EAD in hand and you can only work during the time period indicated on the EAD.

How to Apply

Step 1: Submit the documents listed below to  If emailing documents they should be in pdf format. No other format will be accepted. Do not take photos with your phone and send .jpeg or .tiff files. Do not mail a link to Dropbox, Google Drive or any other cloud service.

You will receive a reply from the DSO confirming that your email was received. Do not send your documents to any other email address; they will not be accepted and reviewed


Step 1:  Required application documents:

  1. I-765 Form
  2. OPT Recommendation Request Form
  3. I-94 from the electronic I-94 web site at
  4. If you applied for OPT before, send copies of any previously issued EAD cards
  1. Complete the fillable I-765 Form. We recommend typing it. Be sure to enter your name EXACTLY as it is in your passport. Print it and sign it in BLUE ink only, making sure not to write outside the allotted area. Scan and email a copy of the signed form along with the necessary documents to CGE. USCIS has some helpful form completion and filing tips on their website at
    Only submit your I-765 in paper form. Submitting the I-765 as an online web-based form requires submission of biometrics after your application has been received by USCIS.

    • On the top of the I-765, before question 1, you must check the correct box for “I am applying for: Permission to Accept Employment”
      If you do not check the box, USCIS will return your application to you.
    • Question 3, Address. The address you put on the I-765 has to be valid up to 4 months from the time you mail the application. An “undeliverable” address is a major source of problems with OPT applications. We suggest that you use Center for Global Education, 9 Andrews Rd., Lewiston, ME 04240. You may need to hand-write this address as the I-765 does not have enough room to enter it on the online form.
    • Question 10: Enter your 11-digit I-94 number retrieved from the electronic I-94 web site at
    • Question 11: Only check “Yes” if you have ever received an EAD.
    • Question 16: The code for pre-completion OPT is (c)(3)(A).
    • Question 17: Leave blank as it does not apply to pre-completion OPT.
  2. Complete page 1 of the OPT Recommendation Request Form. You must fill in your requested employment start and end dates. These dates cannot be changed after the application has been processed.
  3. A complete checklist of documents follows the mailing information below.

Step 2: The DSO will review your application and issue you an I-20 with OPT recommendation.

  • The DSO recommendation may take as much as 5 business days
  • We will notify you by email when your new I-20 is ready to pick up.

Step 3: Mail your OPT Application to USCIS:

  1. It is ESSENTIAL that the USCIS Service Center receives your application within 30 days of the date that the OPT I-20 is issued. If it is not received within 30 days of the issuance date, your application will be denied by USCIS and your $380 fee will not be returned or refunded to you.
  2. Remember to sign and date the new I-20 in BLUE ink only!.  Your application will be returned for an unsigned I-20, an unsigned check or an unsigned I-765 form.
  3. Photocopy the entire application before you send it so that you have a complete copy for your records.
  4. Send your application to the USCIS by a courier service such as FedEx to provide you with proof that your application was timely in the event that the application is lost.
  5. All applications must either be filed at the USCIS Dallas or USCIS Lewisville Lockbox facilities. Students who list a mailing address on the I-765 in Maine must send the application to:
U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Priority Mail Express Courier service (FedEx, UPS)
PO Box 660867 Attn: AOS
Dallas, TX 75266 2501 S. State Hwy. 121, Business
Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
  1. If you use a mailing address in another state, go to Lockbox Addresses on the USCIS I-765 site to find out where to file your application.

OPT Application Checklist

  1. Form G-1145 This form should be on the top of your application if you want USCIS to notify you by email and/or text message that they have accepted your application.
  2. Completed Form I-765 – Original-NO PHOTOCOPIES. We strongly recommend completing the fillable pdf online at but if you choose not to do so, use blue ink.
  3. Required $410 fee payable to the Department of Homeland Security by:
    • a bank check
    • money order; please note, a money order is more difficult to track than a check
  4. Photocopies of pages 1 and 3 of all I-20s issued prior to 2015 or pages 1 and 2 for the new version I-20 that you have been issued since receiving your F-1 status, including the I-20 with the OPT recommendations. DO NOT send originals of any I-20. Be sure you have SIGNED AND DATED all your I-20s on page 1. Note: The USCIS wants to see all your I-20s starting from the one marked “initial attendance”. If you do not have all your I-20s and are unable to obtain copies from the appropriate school, you should attach a brief explanation of your F-1 status history.
  5. Photocopy of your passport ID page
  6. Photocopy of your F-1 entry visa (if any) OR photocopy of I-797 Notice of Approval of change of status to F-1
  7. Photocopy of your most recent I-94 retrieved from the electronic I-94 web site at
  8. Photocopy of both sides of any previously issued EAD cards
  9. Two U.S. passport style photos. The USCIS requires that the photos meet the specifications for the full frontal/passport type of photos and not be more than 30 days old when the applications is filed. Go to the Department of State website for photo standards. Write your name lightly on the back of each picture in pencil. Passport photos can be taken at the following location:
    •  CVS on Sabattus Street.
    • Walmart in Auburn

Step 3: Receiving your EAD Card:

  • Processing time: The USCIS can take 90 days to process an EAD application. After you receive the “Notice of Action” with the 13-digit receipt number, you can check the status of your pending application online on the USCIS web site at Contact the DSO if your application has been pending for more than 90 days from the date of receipt on the “Notice of Action receipt” form.
  • USCIS will send all related mail including the receipt notice, the approval notice and the EAD to the address indicated on the I-765 form
  • If you change your address during the processing time, there is a way to update USCIS online using the USCIS Change of Address site but we cannot guarantee its efficacy. U.S. government mail will not be forwarded to another address, even if you change it with the postal service.
  • Contact the DSO if you receive any correspondence such as a Request for Evidence (RFE) (not the receipt or approval notices or the EAD), from USCIS about your application.
  • The employment authorization start date on your EAD will be the date you requested or the date the EAD is processed, whichever is later.

Special Considerations:

    • If you have any dependents, they will also receive updated I-20s. However, you do not need to submit their documents with your OPT application.
    • If you decide that you do not want OPT, contact the DSO immediately for guidance on your situation.
    • Any employment done under pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 month period. If you use practical training under this option you will not be eligible for the full 12 months of practical training following the completion of all degree requirements. Each day used under full-time optional practical training is deducted from the 12 month allotment. Part-time practical training is deducted from the available practical training at half the full-time rate.
    • Please note that once your OPT application has been sent to the USCIS, there is no provision for changing the dates.
    • You are not allowed to work until you receive the EAD from USCIS. If you do not work during the authorized period of time granted to you, that time is still deducted from the total 12 months.  You cannot recover this time for later use.
    • You are required to be a full-time student at all times while pursuing a course of study in F-1 status except during annual vacation periods.

Contact the DSO if you have questions about the procedure or if you receive any correspondence about your application.