F-1 off-campus employment during academic program

Special Notice

USCIS is making great efforts to assist students during COVID-19. Visit our main employment web page for the latest USCIS updates.


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. Those 12 months can be used while earning your degree (Pre-OPT), after earning your degree (Post-OPT), or a combination of both (Pre- and Post-OPT).

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Maintenance of F-1 status for a minimum of one academic year in a degree program.

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

  • Employment must be directly related to your field of study.


  • It is not necessary to have a job when you apply for Pre-OPT as USCIS does not require proof of employment when you apply for Pre-OPT

  • Any approved Pre-OPT will be deducted from your available 12 months of OPT time: accrued at half the rate when used during the semester, in full when used during the summer break when requested at full time. 

Example: Four months of approved part-time Pre-OPT subtracts 2 months of available OPT while 2 months of approved full-time Pre-OPT subtracts 2 months of available OPT.

  • 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).

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

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

  • You are not authorized to work or volunteer until the start date printed on your EAD card, and you have received the card in the mail.

  • Unemployment time is not a factor during Pre-OPT. However, reporting employment through the Pre-OPT Employment Update eForm through the ISSC eForm Portal 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. 

When to Apply

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 maximize your opportunity to receive your EAD card on time.

Pre-OPT recommended I-20s will be issued no more than 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


Submit Pre-OPT e-Form to ISSC

Submit your application materials to the ISSC through the Pre-OPT I-20 Request eForm through the ISSC eForm Portal no more than 100 days prior to your employment start date.  ISSC will release your I-20 on or after the 90th day prior to your employment start date.  

Please have the following materials ready prior to submitting the e-Form:

  • Copy of biographical page of passport (page with your picture on it) valid at least six months into the future (NOT your visa).
  • Copy of recent I-94 arrival record (NOT your travel history).
  • Copy of the front and back of prior EAD cards at your current degree program level (if applicable).

Please allow the ISSC approximately 10 days to process your Pre-OPT request.

The ISSC cannot process your Pre-OPT request until AFTER your academic advisor has approved the eForm. Any delay in your academic advisor’s approval is NOT part of the ISSC’s 10-day processing time; please plan ahead.


Receive your Pre-OPT I-20 from ISSC

  • USCIS will reject applications received prior to the 90th day before the student’s employment start date. If the ISSC receives your eForm too early, your I-20 will be held and ready at or after the 90th day
  • You will receive an email notification from the ISSC with your new Pre-OPT I-20 and instructions attached. 
  • If you would like a paper copy of your STEM OPT Extension I-20, please review our Receiving Documents webpage for more information

You must review the information within your I-20 for accuracy, then sign and date in blue ink.


Submit your Application to USCIS for Processing

After receiving your Pre-OPT I-20 from the ISSC, you will need to submit your documents to USCIS within 30 days of the date the ISSC signed your I-20 (date issued).  Applications received after the 30-day signature limit will be denied by USCIS.

There are two methods for submitting your STEM OPT Extension application to USCIS: online or paper. The ISSC highly recommends that you use the online method.

You must file the following documents with your application:

  • Pre-OPT application checklist (not required for online application).
  • Payment (choose one of the following):
    • For paper applications: Form G-1450 (for credit card payments), personal or cashier’s check, or money order, for $410.00 payable to "US Department of Homeland Security" (do not abbreviate).
    • For online applications: Online applications must use Pay.gov to securely submit payment via credit card or checking/savings account.
  • Form G-1145 (not required for online application).
  • Form I-765
    • For paper applications: USCIS frequently updates this form which changes the edition (date).  Your application will be rejected or denied if you use the incorrect form.  Before mailing your application be sure to verify that you are using the correct edition.
    • For online applications: The questions on this form will be asked throughout the online application process.
  • A copy of pages 1 and 2 of new I-20 signed by DSO and student (do not include F2 dependent I-20s).
  • Copy of recent I-94 arrival record (NOT your travel history).
  • Copy of the front and back of prior EAD cards at the current program level (if applicable).
  • Copy of biographical page of passport (page with your picture on it) valid at least six months into the future (NOT your visa).
  • Two passport-style photos (2” x 2”) 
    • For paper applications: Name and I-94 admission number should be written lightly on back in pencil placed in a small envelope.

Carefully follow all instructions provided to you when submitting your application materials to USCIS, and keep copies of all completed applications for your personal records. If you have a job offer letter from a company, you may include it with your application, but it is NOT required (add the letter at the end of your packet for USCIS). 

For a comprehensive step by step review of your Pre-OPT packet enroll in the Self-Guided Pre-OPT Packet Review Canvas course.

Discounted optional shipping through eShipGlobal

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

  • DO NOT submit your application to USCIS prior to 90 days before your requested Pre-OPT start date. USCIS will cash your payment and deny your application if it is received prior to 90 days before your Pre-OPT start date.
  • USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of the date the ISSC signed your I-20 (date issued). If your application will not make it to USCIS within 30 days, you must return to ISSC for a new I-20.
  • Print, sign and date your OPT I-20 in blue ink.
  • Paper submission only:
    • Sign and date Form I-765 in black ink.
    • Do not staple anything, bind your entire application packet with one clip.
    • Fill out a personal check or money order, including the date, payable to the US Department of Homeland Security and write the amount in numbers ($410.00) and words (Four hundred ten dollars and 00/100), and sign it. Add your I-94 admission number in the “Memo:” or “For:” line on your check (bottom left), or somewhere appropriate on the money order.
    • Follow the mailing instructions and checklist provided by the ISSC.
    • The United States Postal Service (USPS/ “the post office”) will not forward EAD cards. If you are moving, you must update your address within 10 days by:
  • If you filed a paper application and have not received your receipt notice within 30 days, please email lockboxsupport@uscis.dhs.gov and include the tracking information of your delivery confirmation.

If for any reason you receive a Rejection, Denial, or a Request for Evidence (RFE) Notice from USCIS, or if you receive your application materials back from the postal/shipping service, DO NOT resend the materials. Inform ISSC by completing the OPT/STEM USCIS Notice Upload eForm for further advisement. 

Receiving your Receipt Notice, EAD Card, and maintaining F-1 status while on Pre-OPT.

Please remember, USCIS processes and approves your application, NOT ASU, therefore, contact USCIS (1-800-375-5283) regarding application issues and/or delays. They cannot change requested start/end dates nor can they change your completion dates. Once submitted, the only way to edit anything will be to request USCIS to withdraw your case. You MUST speak with an ISSC advisor prior to requesting application withdraw from USCIS.

If you submit Form G-1145, you will receive notification of application arrival (i.e., Receipt Notice) via text and/or email within 72 hours, and you will also receive a paper Notice of Action (i.e., receipt notice) from USCIS within four weeks of filing. If you filed online, you will receive your receipt notice and receipt number instantly through myUSCIS upon submission of your application. You will receive your EAD Card approximately two weeks after USCIS approves your application.

  • The receipt number printed on the receipt notice or the text or email will allow you to track your application’s progress using USCIS’s website.
  • If you filed a paper application and have not received your receipt notice within 30 days, please email lockboxsupport@uscis.dhs.gov and include the tracking information of your delivery confirmation.
  • It takes approximately 90 days to process a Pre-OPT application. You may check the USCIS website for current processing times. If your application is taking longer than the posted processing time, you may request an expedite also at the USCIS website.
  • If your application is still processing after their currently posted processing times, you may submit a case inquiry with USCIS regarding their delay in processing times.
  • The United States Postal Service (USPS/ “the post office”) will not forward EAD cards. If you are moving, you must update your address within 10 days by:
  • If you like to withdraw your application, you should visit or contact the ISSC immediately so we can provide you further immigration advisement. The situation becomes critical as you approach the completion date listed on your I-20.  Withdrawing is not always guaranteed. Approval of withdrawal will depend on the time frame of the request, including USCIS’s 45-60 days to process your request. The $410 filing fee is non-refundable.

While on Pre-OPT, you must continue to maintain F-1 status by doing the following:

  • DO NOT work until you receive your EAD card, or before or beyond the dates authorized on your EAD card (this includes volunteering and unpaid internships).
  • Check your My ASU account and ASU email regularly for immigration updates.
  • Submit a copy of the EAD card by submitting the Pre-OPT EAD Upload eForm through the ISSC eForm Portal
  • Report your employment status by submitting the Pre-OPT Employment Update eForm through the ISSC eForm Portal. Unemployment time is not a factor during Pre-OPT. However, reporting employment is still required.
  • 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.
  • You must keep all original I-20s and all your prior immigration documents indefinitely, for possible use in the future. The ISSC does not retain the student’s original I-20s.
  • Report any changes in name, address, employer’s name and address, and updated status or interruption of employment in My ASU within 10 days.