Filing Timeline

OPT Timeline

Visual Post-OPT Filing Timeline


You may apply for Pre-OPT 90 days from when you would like your OPT employment to start, though USCIS may accept applications for Pre-OPT prior to this 90-day window. If your authorized OPT days are during an academic semester, you may only work part-time ,which amounts to 20 hours or less per week. Any Pre-OPT period will be deducted from your 12 month OPT allotment.

Attention: Thesis/Dissertation Students: If you have completed all coursework and are working on your dissertation, you may apply for full-time or part-time Pre-OPT. Please contact the ISSO to determine your eligibility for full-time Pre-OPT.


The Post OPT application can be submitted to USCIS as early as 90 days before the student’s program completion date, and before the expiration of the students 60-day grace period following their completion date. The Post-OPT start date must fall within the 60-day grace period.

  1. An approved Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for Post OPT is related to the completion date.
    • For this reason, it is crucial to choose an accurate completion date. USCIS defines completion as the date the student actually completes his/her degree requirements, which is not necessarily the same as the school’s Commencement or Degree Conferral date(s).
    • For dissertation/thesis students defending their final thesis/dissertation, your completion date is normally two to four weeks beyond the defense date to allow for necessary corrections and the submission of your thesis/dissertation to the University Library.
    • Only your Thesis/Dissertation advisor can estimate your completion date within the two to four week range.
  2. If you are unable to complete by the completion date entered on the on your OPT eForm by your Academic Advisor,* IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to inform us PRIOR to the completion date.
  3. If you notify us prior to the completion date, it provides some flexibility to cancel your Post OPT and otherwise protect your legal status.
  4. Failure to inform us that you did not complete as expected below could create problems with your immigration record and, in some cases, jeopardize your Post OPT authorization.
  5. USCIS will no longer acknowledge requests for expedited processing of any OPT or STEM petition.
    • Please be mindful not to inquire with USCIS on the status of your petition until after the posted USCIS processing timeline listed on their website.
    • Multiple inquiries before the posted timeline may actually delay the processing of your case.
    • You will be able to call or submit an e-Request as soon as your case falls outside of the posted USCIS processing timeline.
    • Please note that ISSO is no longer able to inquire on the status of your case.

Risks to Applying for Pre-OPT Work Authorization for Your Final Academic Semester

We urge you to familiarize yourself with the Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (Pre-OPT) application process and timelines:

  1. ISSO will shorten the completion date on page one of your Form I-20 to match your anticipated completion date.
  2. You will not be authorized to work either on or off-campus beyond the I-20 expiration date until you are able to present an approved Employment Authorization Card (EAC).
  3. An EAC for Pre-OPT employment does not permit you to work beyond the expiration date on page 1 of the Pre-OPT I-20, completion of degree, or EAC expiry, whichever comes first.
  4. EACs issued for Pre-OPT cannot be used for Post-OPT employment
  5. It is currently taking approximately 90 days for any OPT processing (Pre, Post, or STEM). Please note that this is an "estimated" timeline, and actual processing times may vary. You may check the USCIS "estimated" timeline, which is also subject to change.
  6. Please take note that even though you are legally eligible to apply for Post-OPT within 90 days before an anticipated completion date, you cannot apply for Post-OPT if you have a pending Pre-OPT application. You will either have to cancel the pending Pre-OPT application, which can be problematic and timely, OR wait until you receive the Pre-OPT approval before being authorized to apply for Post-OPT.

Any Pre-OPT time authorized will be deducted from your Post-OPT allotment (whether you actually worked pursuant to your Pre-OPT or not). Part-time Pre-OPT is deducted in half, and full-time Pre-OPT is deducted in full.

Feel free to review the Pre & Post OPT processes on the Employment section of our website. We also encourage you to contact our office during Advising Hours with any questions, as we prefer not to provide OPT advice via email.

Next Step

  • How do I apply?