Murthy Snapshot: Self-Employment for F-1 OPT Students

A student in F-1 status with initial optional practical training (OPT) authorization may meet the employment requirements by engaging in self-employment as an alternative option from the standard employment relationship. For a student interested in such an alternative or who is otherwise interested in starting a business, here are the key points to consider:

  • It is possible to be self-employed during the first year of OPT, if the nature of the business directly relates to the student’s degree program and the student is actively engaged in the business. Self-employment is not permitted during a 24-month STEM OPT extension.
  • A self-employed student must work at least 20 hours per week.
  • The student should be able to provide details on the nature and duration of the self-employment and the hours worked for the business if requested by any government agency. It is useful to keep a journal of the business activity throughout the self-employment period as well as save all important business documents (e.g., client contracts, business marketing analysis, internal business product development).
  • Self-employment while on OPT is likely to be reviewed closely by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), depending on any future immigration benefit sought. Therefore, it is important to consider the risks and discuss the possibilities with an immigration attorney.

Your Takeaway

Self-employment can be a viable option for students who have difficulty finding traditional employment during the first year of F-1 OPT. Other alternative employment options for students are explained in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief F-1 OPT Employment Options and Requirements for Students (07.Jul.2023), and should be discussed with a qualified immigration attorney prior to being pursued.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.