Filing Timeline

OPT Timeline

Visual Post-OPT Filing Timeline


Students may apply for pre-OPT 90 days from when they would like their OPT employment to start, though USCIS may accept applications for pre-OPT prior to this 90-day window. If students are authorized OPT days are during an academic semester, they may only work part-time, which amounts to 20 hours or less per week. Any pre-OPT period will be deducted from a student's 12 month OPT allotment.

Attention - Thesis/Dissertation Students: Students who have completed all coursework and are working on their dissertation may apply for full-time or part-time pre-OPT. Please contact the ISSO to determine 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 students actually completes their 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, completion date is normally two to four weeks beyond the defense date. This allows for necessary corrections and the submission of their thesis/dissertation to the University Library. Only a Thesis/Dissertation advisor can estimate the completion date within the two to four week range.
  2. If a student is unable to complete by the completion date entered on the on their OPT e-form by their Academic Advisor, it is the student's responsibility to inform the ISSO prior to the completion date.
  3. If a student notifies the ISSO prior to the completion date, it provides some flexibility to cancel post-OPT and otherwise protect their legal status.
  4. Failure to inform the ISSO that a student did not complete as expected below could create problems with their immigration record and, in some cases, jeopardize their post-OPT authorization.
  5. Students should be mindful not to contact USCIS on the status of their petition until after the inquiry date. This date can be accessed on the USCIS processing timeline webpage.
    • Multiple inquiries before the posted timeline may actually delay the processing of the case.
    • Students will be able to call or submit an e-request as soon as their case falls outside of the posted USCIS processing timeline.
    • Please note that ISSO is unable to inquire with USCIS on the status of a student's case.

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

Before applying for pre-OPT work authorization, students should be familiar with the Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (pre-OPT) application process and timelines:

  1. ISSO will shorten the completion date on page one of the Form I-20 to match the student's anticipated completion date.
  2. Students will not be authorized to work either on or off-campus beyond the I-20 expiration date until they are able to present an approved Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  3. An EAD for pre-OPT employment does not permit students to work beyond the expiration date on page 1 of the pre-OPT I-20, completion of degree, or EAD expiry, whichever comes first.
  4. EADs issued for pre-OPT cannot be used for post-OPT employment
  5. OPT processing (Pre, Post, or STEM) can take up to 90 days. Please refer to the USCIS webpage for an estimated timeline
  6. Students should take note that even though they are eligible to apply for post-OPT within 90 days before an anticipated completion date, they cannot apply for post-OPT if they have a pending pre-OPT application. They will either have to cancel the pending pre-OPT application, which can be problematic and timely, or wait until they receive the pre-OPT approval before being authorized to apply for post-OPT.