Employment

Employment for F-1 and J-1 students is limited, and working without permission is a violation of status and a deportable offense. F-1 and J-1 students may not work off campus without written permission from International Student and Scholar Advising (ISSA). On-campus employment is permitted with certain restrictions. J-1 students must request permission for on-campus employment via iStart. A Social Security number is required for anyone receiving payment. ISSA can assist you with this process.

ISSA offers workshops every semester that explain the different types of off-campus work permission available to F-1 and J-1 students.

Pre-Completion OPT

Pre-completion optional practical training (OPT) is an off-campus employment authorization and available to eligible F-1 students during their academic program, i.e., before program completion/graduation.

General Information 

Eligibility Requirements

Applying for Pre-Completion OPT: A Two-Step Process

Completing the OPT Application Form I-765

General Information

  1. Pre-completion OPT can be used for:
    • Full-time (more than 20 hours/week) or part-time (fewer than 20 hours) employment during summer vacation as long as you will enroll for the upcoming fall semester.
    • Part-time employment (20 hours or fewer per week) while school is in session if students continue to enroll full time for courses.
  2. For master’s and PhD students, full- or part-time employment after completion of all course requirements except thesis/dissertation.
  3. Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT for each higher-level degree (i.e., bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD.) If you apply and are approved for Pre-completion OPT for a total of 12 months, you will no longer be eligible for Post-completion OPT. 
  4. Pre-Completion OPT is deducted from the 12-month total of OPT, including Post-Completion OPT, for which students are eligible at each higher degree level.
    • Full-time Pre-completion OPT is deducted at a one-to-one ratio: For example, one month of full-time Pre-completion OPT subtracts one month from the 12-month total, including Post-completion OPT.
    • Part-time Pre-Completion OPT is deducted at half the rate: For example, four months of part-time Pre-Completion subtract two months from the 12-month total, including Post-completion OPT.
  5. When applying for Pre-Completion OPT, a job offer is not required. However, once USCIS approves your application, any unused days cannot be recovered.
    Note: It takes approximately 90 days to receive the EAD card, so plan accordingly.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for pre-completion OPT, you must:

  • Have been enrolled continuously for one academic year (fall and spring semester) by the time the pre-completion OPT employment starts. You may apply for pre-completion OPT 90 days prior to the end of the one academic year.
  • Be in active F-1 status.
  • Your pre-completion OPT employment must be closely related to your major of study.

Applying for Pre-Completion OPT: A Two-Step Process

  • Request the I-20 by completing the OPT form. Your academic adviser must complete the advisor portion of the form informing ISSA of your graduation date before a new I-20 can be issued. If you have a secondary major, you must also obtain a letter from your second-major academic adviser that confirms the completion of that program. ISSA generally requires 10-14 business days to process iStart requests. During peak periods, however, it may take longer.
  • Make sure the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives your OPT application within 30 days of the issue date of the new OPT's recommended I-20.

Note: The OPT application is not approved by ISSA, but rather by USCIS. (2) It is also very difficult to cancel an application once it has been submitted to USCIS, so make sure of your plans before you apply.

  1. Request an OPT I-20 in iStart.
    ISSA will issue an updated I-20 with the Pre-Completion OPT recommendation on page 2 to eligible students.
  2. Submit form I-765, the signed I-20 with the OPT recommendation, and other required documents to USCIS online within 30 days of the date of OPT I-20 issuance.
    • Check the current USCIS processing times for form I-765.
    • You must be in the U.S. when you submit form I-765.

Completing the OPT Application Form I-765

  1. Set up a MyUSCIS account
  2. Complete the Pre-completion OPT application form I-765

Be sure to have the following required documents ready:

  • Processing fee for form I-765
  • Passport-style photo
  • Proof of enrollment
  • Signed I-20 with the Pre-completion OPT recommendation on page 2 (make sure you have signed and dated on page 1)
  • Copy of your passport photo page
  • Your most recent I-94 arrival record
  • CPT and previous OPT I-20s, if applicable
  • Previous EAD card, if applicable

Note: Premium processing for OPT, using form I-907, is available from USCIS at an additional cost. This is an optional upgrade to speed up the processing time with a guaranteed USCIS review window of 30 days.