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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.
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.
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:
Follow all mailing instructions carefully when submitting the application materials to USCIS and keep a copy of all completed applications for personal record.
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.
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.
While on Pre-OPT, students must continue to maintain F-1 status and complete OPT reporting requirements by doing the following:
Students must check their My ASU account and ASU email on a regular basis for immigration updates.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes. Traveling while pre-OPT approval is pending or during the pre-OPT period is allowed.
Before submitting Travel Signature Request eForm, make sure your employment and local address are updated.
Yes, when on pre-OPT you must report your employment.