Carnegie Mellon University

Pre-Completion OPT

Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is work authorization for F-1 students to gain practical off-campus work experience within your field of study that begins and ends before your program completion date.

As an F-1 student, you are eligible for 12 months of OPT at each degree level (i.e., Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral). If you do not have an internship or practicum option, Pre-Completion OPT may be right for you.

While participating in Pre-Completion OPT, you will remain in F-1 status.OPT is not a status, it is a benefit of your F-1 status. Therefore, Carnegie Mellon and OIE will still hold your SEVIS record, so we remain your advisors. You will need to maintain active, full-time student status with the university to remain eligible for Pre-Completion OPT.

As an F-1 student, you may be eligible to apply for Pre-Completion OPT for summer terms or part-time work during the academic year in certain circumstances. Pre-Completion OPT must be part-time (limited to 20 hours per week) during the academic year. Part-time, pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 months at half rate (e.g., using four months of part-time, pre-completion OPT would deduct two months of your 12-month total). If you are interested in pursuing Pre-Completion OPT, remember to plan ahead, as OPT approval can take three to five months. Remember to choose your OPT dates carefully, as they cannot be altered after your OPT application is submitted to USCIS. You must wait until your application is approved and you receive your EAD Card to begin working.

If your Pre-Completion OPT takes place during your last semester, you may need to apply for Post-Completion OPT while waiting for Pre-Completion OPT approval. These are two separate applications and will require separate approval and fees. Even if your Pre-OPT is not approved yet, you must deduct the requested Pre-OPT time when determining Post-OPT dates.

step-1.pngRequest Your Academic Advisor or Program Coordinator to Complete the Recommendation Form

Have your academic advisor/program coordinator complete the Pre-Completion OPT Academic Advisor Recommendation Form.

Submit Your Completed Pre-Completion OPT Request Form

  • After your academic advisor or program coordinator has completed the Pre-Completion OPT Request Form, you will upload your completed form through the MyOIE Portal.
  • Make sure your address and personal email/phone number are up to date in your SIO account.
  • Complete the e-form request. Read and complete your Pre-Completion OPT e-form carefully. Any errors in your submission could be a cause for denial by OIE and will require you to resubmit all materials to OIE through the MyOIE Portal.
  • Once approved, OIE will issue you a new Pre-OPT I-20 within ten business days of recommending Pre-Completion OPT.
  • You will send a photocopy of this new I-20 with your entire Pre-Completion OPT application to USCIS.

Collect and Send Your Application Materials

  • Prepare all application materials and send them by UPS or FedEx, with shipping insurance, for the cost of the OPT application fee. Be sure to keep copies of everything you mail to USCIS for your records!
  • Mail the OPT application to USCIS. Check the filing locations for Form I-765 (Click on Foreign Students and use the address for F-1 OPT).
  • You will receive a Receipt Notice (Form I-797) from USCIS. Be sure to save this for your records. The Receipt Notice will have a tracking number (located in the "Receipt Number" box on the I-797). You can use this number to follow the progress of your case.
  • Your case will stay in "Initial Review" status until approved.
  • Your Pre-Completion OPT application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the issue date, as noted on the new Pre-Completion OPT I-20.