Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to your major field of study. If you want to work off-campus as an F-1 student, one way to do so is to be approved for OPT. You cannot begin work on OPT until you receive your approval in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and it is within the dates listed on your EAD.
The information contained on this page is for general information purposes only. Due to frequent government updates, NYU OGS may make additions, deletions, or modifications to the contents on this page at any time without prior notice.
Please note, these directions are meant to help you in completing your application but should not be considered legal advice. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services ultimately provides the decision on your OPT application. It is your responsibility, as the OPT applicant, to ensure that your OPT application is accurate and complete before you submit it to the US government. Incomplete applications could result in a delay in processing time or denial. NYU in no event shall be held liable for any delay, denial, or mistake on your OPT application.
Who Can Apply
- You do NOT need to have a job offer in order to apply for OPT.
- You must have been a full-time student for at least one academic year in the US. **Enrollment at ELI or another English language school is NOT considered as part of the one academic year requirement.
- You must currently be in F-1 status.
- You must be in good academic standing and be making normal progress toward finishing your degree.
- You must not have used more than 12 months of OPT in the past at your current degree level.
- If you complete your academic program and travel internationally BEFORE applying for OPT, the OGS is not able to provide you with an OPT recommended I-20 (a necessary part of your OPT application).
- If you are finished with your academic program, you can still apply for OPT as long as the government receives your application within 60 days of the date you finished your studies at NYU AND you have not left the US since completing your program.
PLEASE NOTE: If you are getting your degree at an NYU site outside of New York, you are generally not eligible for OPT. Please contact us if you have any questions about your OPT eligibility.
How Long Your OPT Lasts
You can get a maximum of 12 months of OPT for each degree level you complete. If you are studying within certain fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), you may be eligible for a STEM OPT extension.
Students on post-completion OPT must report your job information within 90 days of being on OPT. If you don't report your employment or find a job within that time, your OPT will automatically end.
Please note, if you apply for and are approved for Pre-Completion OPT, any time you are approved for (regardless of whether you actually find a job) deducts from the total 12 months of OPT you have at your current degree level. If you get approved for Pre-Completion OPT and don’t use it, it still deducts, so be prudent and intentional.
Pre-Completion OPT that is 20 hours or less per week will be deducted at half the rate. For example, if you work four months for 20 hours or less per week for Pre-Completion OPT, you would have two months deducted from your 12 month total. Therefore, you would then have ten months of OPT to use before or after graduation.
How Long OPT Takes to Get Approved
It takes around 4-6 months to get approved for OPT so please plan ahead. It takes this long because:
1. Your academic department signs off on a request form (1-2 weeks).
2. The OGS prepares your new I-20 (up to 1 week).
3. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) evaluates your application (up to 5 months).
OPT and Travel Planning
Travel before your program end date is the same as it has been: you must have all documents as listed on our documents to carry page.
If you want to travel after your program end date, you need all the documents as listed on our alumni documents to carry page.
You can also view this YouTube video to review what documents you need to have with you while traveling on post-completion OPT.
OPT and Beginning a New Academic Program
US government regulations state that optional practical training employment is automatically terminated when a student transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level. Only recreational or avocational classes are permissible while on OPT.
International Students and Entrepreneurship
Thinking of starting your own business? If you're an F-1 student on OPT, you may be able to become a self-employed business owner in limited circumstances. Unfortunately, this type of advising is beyond our area of expertise. So, if you're serious about getting a business started, discuss your plans with an immigration attorney who works with a corporate attorney. See international students and entrepreneurship for more information about your options while you are in F-1 status. You can also find information on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Entrepreneur Visa Guide which itemizes US visa options beyond F-1 and J-1 status.
Because starting your own business constitutes work, you MUST have employment authorization PRIOR TO starting your own business. Students in F-1 status must qualify and apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) if they plan to start a business. The business must relate to your program of study and can occur either before or after the completion of your program of study. For more information about international students and entrepreneurship, see this US government resource.
Remote Work and OPT
Please keep in mind that any employment done within the United States must have employment authorization. This includes work you may be doing remotely either for a company within the United States or outside of the United States. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the US government has indicated that remote employment may be counted for OPT purposes as long as a student’s US employer either has an office outside of the United States or the US employer can assess student engagement using electronic means. See this guidance from the US government for further details.