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Pre-OPT

Pre-OPT is a work benefit opportunity to gain off-campus work experience and is requested to be used before the completion of a degree program.

  • F-1 students are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT per degree program (Pre- or Post-OPT).

  • Students must complete one full academic year (fall/spring or spring/fall) in their current degree program to be eligible to apply for Pre-OPT.

  • Students must be registered at ASU for the semester they wish to pursue Pre-OPT.

  • The proposed employment must be in the student’s field of study and commensurate with educational level.

  • Time requested and approved is subtracted in half from the full 12-month OPT benefit (e.g., 4 months of approved part-time Pre-OPT subtracts 2 months of OPT, 2 months of approved part-time Pre-OPT subtracts 1 month of OPT), except for full-time Pre-OPT during the summer break.

  • Students may work up to 20 hours per week during the semester (part-time) and up to 40 hours per week during summer break (full-time).

  • A separate application and fee must be submitted for each semester.

  • Students are not authorized to work until they receive their EAD card in the mail.

  • Graduate students who have completed all course requirements (including all required thesis or dissertation hours), but will be in a continued registration course until their defense date, may apply for Pre-OPT and will be authorized to work up to 40 hours per week.

  • Unemployment time is not a factor during Pre-OPT. Reporting employment is required.

If 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) have been used, the student will not be eligible for Pre-OPT or Post-OPT.

 

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When to Apply for Pre-OPT

To allow for the 10 day ISSC processing time and the 90 day USCIS processing time, ASU ISSC recommends applying for Pre-OPT at least 100 days prior to the date you wish your employment authorization to begin. This will allow for you to receive your EAD card prior to your proposed Pre-OPT start date.

Pre-OPT recommended I-20s will be issued no more that 90 days prior to the recommended Pre-OPT start date.

We recommend that you attend an OPT Information Session prior to beginning the application process.

How to Apply for Pre-OPT

  1. Submit your application materials to the ISSC through the Pre-OPT I-20 Request eForm.  Have the following application materials ready to upload:
  • A copy of your most recent I-94
    • Please access your most recent I-94, not your Travel History
    • Copy of recent I-94 arrival record obtained here
    • Note: If you cannot access your I-94, please contact the ISSC immediately.
  • Copy of biographical (photo) page of Passport (valid at least six months into the future)C.  A copy of all previously issued Employment Authorization Document cards (if any)
  • A copy of all previously issued Employment Authorization Document cards (if any)
  • Pick up new Pre-OPT I-20 from the ISSC. Students will receive an email informing them that their Pre-OPT application packet is ready for pickup (in person by you or a representative) or delivery.
  • Mail your Pre-OPT application to the USCIS for processing.

    After receiving the OPT application packet, mailing instructions and checklist from the ISSC, students must submit the following documents to USCIS within 30 days of issuance of the new OPT I-20 or the application will be denied:

    • Pre-OPT application checklist
    • Form G-1145
    • Form I-765
    • $410 payment by including either
      • Form G-1450 if paying by credit card, or
      • a personal check or money order payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"
    • Two passport-style photos (2” x 2”) with name and I-94 admission number written lightly on back with pencil
    • Copy of recent I-94 arrival record obtained here
    • Copy of the front and back of prior EAD cards (if applicable)
    • Copy of new OPT I-20 signed by DSO and student
    • Copy of all previous I-20s
    • Copy of biographical (photo) page of passport (valid at least six months into the future)
  • Follow all mailing instructions carefully when submitting the application materials to USCIS and keep a copy of all completed applications for personal record.

     

    What to Expect

    Students will receive a Notice of Action (i.e., receipt notice) from the USCIS within four weeks of filing the application. If you do not receive a receipt notice from the USCIS within four weeks, please email ASU ISSC to follow up on your application status.

    • The receipt number printed on the receipt notice will allow students to track their application progress using the USCIS website.

    • It takes approximately 90 days to process an OPT application.

    • If the application is still processing after 90 days, a case inquiry with USCIS regarding their delay in processing times can be submitted.

    The U.S. Post Office will not forward the EAD card to a new address, and will not mail the EAD card to the address on the I-765. If you have a new address, the address must be updated with the USCIS.

    Tips for Avoiding Application Rejections, Denials, Delays, and Receiving a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS

    If for any reason you receive your materials back from USCIS or the postal/shipping service, do not resend the materials. Double check the signature dates on the I-20 and contact ASU ISSC immediately if you need a new or updated I-20 for the resubmission of your application.

    • Do not mail your application to USCIS prior to 90 days before your program end date.  USCIS CANNOT receive and will return the students application if received prior to 90 days before the program end date.  

    • The application must reach USCIS no later than 60 days after the program end date.

    • The application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the ISSC date issued on the I-20.

    • Sign the OPT I-20 on page 1, under Student Attestation.

    • Fill out and sign the I-765 in black ink and between two lines only (Do not touch the signature line below or words above when signing. USCIS will scan the signature to put it onto the EAD card).

    • Include two passport-style, color photos with a white background taken no earlier than 30 days before submitting to USCIS (follow the instructions on the I-765).

    • Lightly print the student’s name and I-94 admission number on the back of each passport-style photo with a pencil. Do not staple them together.

    • Fill out a personal check or money order. Including the date, payable to the Department of Homeland Security and write the amount in numbers ($410.00) and words (four hundred ten dollars and 00/100), and must be signed.

    • Follow the mailing instructions and checklist provided by ISSC when picking up the OPT packet.

    • If a change of address is unavoidable, you must inform the USCIS and the ISSC of the new address by filing an online change of address with USCIS. Also update your address at My ASU.

    Maintaining F-1 Status

    While on Pre-OPT, students must continue to maintain F-1 status and complete OPT reporting requirements by doing the following:

    • Submit a copy of the EAD card, and report employment status. Unemployment time is not a factor during Pre-OPT. However, reporting employment is still required.
    • Report any changes in name, address, employer’s name and address, and updated status or interruption of employment in My ASU within 10 days.
    • Update your local address with the USCIS and through My ASU within 10 days of moving.

    Students must check their My ASU account and ASU email on a regular basis for immigration updates.

     

    Pre-OPT FAQs

    Do I need to keep my previous I-20s since I got a new one?

    Do I need to keep my previous I-20s since I got a new one?

    Yes. You must keep all original I-20s and all your immigration documents indefinitely, for possible use in the future. The ISSC does not retain student’s original I-20s.

    Do I have to have a job when I apply for Pre-OPT?

    Do I have to have a job when I apply for Pre-OPT?

    USCIS does not require proof of employment when you apply for pre-OPT. However, if you have been approved for Pre-OPT and do not work, the Pre-OPT time is deducted from your time period.

    Can I work on campus after completing my program?

    Can I work on campus after completing my program?

    No. On-campus student employment ends upon completion of your degree program. Any student employment, including assistantships, after that date, is considered unauthorized and will affect your immigration status.

    Are there any employer or location restrictions for working in the U.S. while on OPT?

    Are there any employer or location restrictions for working in the U.S. while on OPT?

    If you are authorized for OPT, there are no employer or location restrictions; however, you must work at least 20 hours per week in a position directly related to your degree program. Multiple employers, short-term employment, staffing or consulting agencies, self-employment, volunteering, and paid/unpaid employment/internships are allowed during both pre- and post-OPT.

    When a STEM student applies for the 24-month STEM OPT extension, employment must be with an e-Verify company and must be directly related to their degree program. Employment can include multiple employers, self-employment (student must be able to prove they have the proper business licenses), and contract work. Working for a staffing agency, consulting firm, unpaid internships, or volunteering does not qualify during the STEM OPT extension.

    What is an important step to do when I receive my Pre-OPT EAD Card?

    What is an important step to do when I receive my Pre-OPT EAD Card?

    Review the accuracy of your name and the dates on the EAD Card and report any discrepancies to the ISSC immediately by email to issc.employment@asu.edu.

    Can I enter the U.S. on a different visa status and continue to work on OPT?

    Can I enter the U.S. on a different visa status and continue to work on OPT?

    No. Do not enter the U.S. on any visa other than F-1 or you will lose your F-1 status and your pre-OPT will be invalidated.

    What if I change my address while my OPT application is pending?

    What if I change my address while my OPT application is pending?

    You must update your local address via My ASU. You must also submit an address change via the USCIS website within 10 days of moving. 

    The U.S. Post Office mail forwarding service will not automatically change your address in the USCIS system. Also, the address that you put on the application Form I-765 will not change the address USCIS has on file.

    Can I send my application to other service centers while I am living in Arizona?

    Can I send my application to other service centers while I am living in Arizona?

    No. You must submit the pre-OPT application to the appropriate lockbox designated by USCIS, based on the mailing address you listed on your I-765 application. For Arizona residents, applications must be submitted to the Phoenix lockbox. For other locations, please check USCIS I-765 lockbox addresses.

    Will I have to pay U.S. taxes for income earned while on OPT?

    Will I have to pay U.S. taxes for income earned while on OPT?

    In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for fewer than six years are exempt from social security (FICA) and Medicare taxes as long as you continue to declare non-resident status for tax purposes (see Internal Revenue Service Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, which you can order by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM or download at www.irs.gov). You should be sure to bring this to the attention of your employer because many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax laws.

    Unless you qualify under a tax treaty between the United States and your home government, your earnings as an F-1 student will be subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes, and employers are required by law to withhold those taxes from your paychecks. By April 15 of each year, you must file a federal income tax return and a Form 8843, Statement for Exempt Individuals, covering the prior calendar year – whether you owe more taxes or not.

    What can I do if I want to withdraw my OPT application?

    What can I do if I want to withdraw my OPT application?

    If a pre-OPT application has not been submitted to USCIS, return all of the pre-OPT application materials you obtained from ISSC and the ISSC will cancel your OPT request.

    If a pre-OPT application has been submitted to USCIS, you must write a letter to USCIS to request withdrawal of your pre-OPT application and submit it along with a copy of the Notice of Action (i.e., receipt notice). You must also inform the ISSC immediately as soon as the request to withdrawal the pre-OPT application has been approved for further immigration advisement. 

    Cancellation is not always guaranteed. Approval of cancellation will depend on the time frame of the request. The $410 filing fee is non-refundable.

    Can I travel while on Pre-OPT?

    Can I travel while on Pre-OPT?

    Yes. Traveling while pre-OPT approval is pending or during the pre-OPT period is allowed.

    How can I get a travel signature while on OPT?

    How can I get a travel signature while on OPT?

    Before submitting Travel Signature Request eForm, make sure your employment and local address are updated.

      1. Submit the Travel Signature Request eForm through ISSC eForm self-service portal. Then, follow the step-by-step instructions to submit the eForm for travel signature request. Once you click the "submit" button, you will see a screen indicating that you successfully submitted your request. Processing time is 10-14 working days. Please plan accordingly.
      2. If you are not in the Phoenix metro area, please read detailed information on how to provide authorization for a representative to pick-up your OPT I-20 with travel endorsement or using eShipGlobal.

    Do I need to report my employment?

    Do I need to report my employment?

    Yes, when on pre-OPT you must report your employment.