Pre-completion OPT is Optional Practical Training you use before finishing your program of study. Remember, OPT is employment that is directly related to your major field of study and is only for students in F-1 status.
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.
How Many Hours Can You Work per Week?
Fall or Spring Semester
You can get authorized for pre-completion OPT on a part-time basis only (20 hours or less per week) during the fall or spring semester while engaged in course work.
Master's Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation
If you are working on a master's thesis/project or doctoral dissertation following completion of all coursework you can get authorization for either a part-time or full-time basis (anything more than 20 hours per week).
During holiday periods (such as the summer and winter breaks) you can be authorized for either a part-time or full-time basis (anything more than 20 hours per week).
When to Apply
If you have been a full-time student for MORE than one academic year in the US and are currently in F-1 status, you may apply for pre-completion OPT up to 90 days before you want your OPT to start. If you are in F-1 status and have been a full-time student for LESS than one academic year, you may apply for pre-completion OPT up to 90 days before you will have completed one academic year. However, your OPT cannot begin until you have completed the full academic year.
How to Apply
Understand the Process and Prepare the Needed Documents
Read all the steps in this process carefully. Then gather and prepare all the items you need for your OPT application.
Attend an Employment Workshop
Get tips on making a successful OPT application and reminders on what you need to do while you are on OPT to maintain your F-1 status. If no workshop listed works with your schedule, check our recorded workshops page to view an OPT workshop previously recorded.
Determine Whom in Your Academic Department Can Confirm Your Academic Progress and Completion Date
You will need to provide the name and NYU email address of your academic advisor, department chair, program coordinator, or faculty advisor in your academic department to the OGS in order to apply for OPT.
Submit a Request to the OGS for an I-20 Recommending You for OPT
In order to submit your request successfully, you will need to upload scanned copies of your:
- I-94 record,
- passport photo/biography page,
- and your previous employment authorization document (EAD) if you've previously been authorized for work in the US.
If you have any problems submitting the online request, review our troubleshooting tips.
Once the OGS receives both your request for an OPT recommendation I-20 and the electronic confirmation from your department, it takes 7 business days to process your request. We will send an email to your NYU email address when your new I-20 is ready.
Get Your New I-20
Get your new I-20 once you receive an email from OGS. You will receive further instructions with your new I-20. Once you have received an updated I-20 with the OPT recommendation, make sure to sign your new I-20 and photocopy it.
Due to the COVID-19 situation and based on recent guidance from the US government, we are currently issuing digitally signed I-20s and emailing them to students at their NYU email account.
Do NOT proceed to the next step until you have received your OPT I-20 issued by OGS.
Decide How You Want to File Your OPT Application
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) currently accepts OPT applications through two methods:
- Filing the OPT application online
- Filing the OPT application by sending it through the mail
Assemble and Review Your OPT Application
Once you have assembled your OPT application, if filing your application online, then come to one of our application review question and answer sessions to review what a complete OPT application needs to include. If you are filing your application by mail, view our OPT application review session linked off of our recorded workshops web page to review what a complete OPT application sent by mail needs to include.
Incomplete or incorrect applications can cause serious delays. If you have questions about your application, schedule an online advising appointment.
Upcoming OPT Application Preparation Sessions
If no workshop listed below works with your schedule, check our recorded workshops page to view a previously recorded OPT Application Preparation session.
Submit Your OPT Application to the US Government
USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of the date your I-20 was issued. If you missed this deadline to submit your OPT application to the US government, request an updated OPT-recommended I-20 from OGS.
If you are applying for OPT by mail:
Send your application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services by FedEx or UPS.
Mail your application to the Direct Filing Address for Form I-765 listed for foreign students.
If you decide NOT to apply for or use your OPT:
You must notify us. If you fail to notify us, your ability to work in the US in the future could be denied.
Receive electronic and paper receipts from USCIS within 60 days. The US government can take three to five months to process your OPT application. Check the US government processing times. [You must select "I-765" for form type. For Field Office or Service Center, most of our students' applications go to the Potomac Service Center.]
LET US KNOW
- if you do not receive both receipts within these timelines
- if you notice any mistakes on your EAD
- if you get a denial or request for more information from USCIS
Set Up Informed Delivery With the US Postal Service
Once USCIS sends you any information regarding your application, they will send official notification to you through the US postal service.
Informed delivery allows you to digitally preview your mail and manage your packages scheduled to arrive soon. Learn more about how to set up your informed delivery account.
Review Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Social Security Number (SSN)
Contact us if you notice any mistakes on your EAD. Please note: you must confirm that the start and end dates of your pre-completion OPT are accurate as soon as your pre-completion OPT is approved.
If you don't already have a Social Security Number and did not apply for one when you completed the I-765, remember that you must have one to get paid. If you completed the Social Security related questions on your I-765 form, you should receive your Social Security card within a month of your OPT approval. Learn more about How to apply for a Social Security Number.