Effective April 8, 2008, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced a new set of rules that will affect you during your Optional Practical Training (OPT) period.
This rule makes some serious changes to post-completion OPT that are effective immediately. Why is it important that you read this information and make the report to the ISP office? Here are some reasons:
- You may lose your F1 status if you will be unemployed for more than 90 days during your OPT.
- You may lose your F1 status if you do not report any new employment or if it is not according to your major.
Please read this entire page very carefully and make a necessary report to the ISP office during your OPT period as you are held responsible for maintaining your F-1 status by making the required report to SEVIS through our program during your OPT period.
What are the limits on periods of unemployment?
Students on post-completion OPT may have up to 90 days of unemployment.
What counts as time unemployed?
Each day during the period when OPT authorization begins and ends that the student does not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment. The only exception is that periods up to 10 days between the end of one job and the beginning of the next job will not be included in the calculation for time spent unemployed.
How does travel outside the United States impact the period of unemployment?
If the student whose approved period of OPT has started travels outside of the United States while unemployed, the time spent outside the United States will count as unemployment against the 90-day limit.
If a student travels while employed either during a period of leave authorized by an employer or as part of their employment, the time spent outside the United States will not count as unemployment.
What types of employment are allowed for regular OPT?
The following activities are considered allowable employment on both pre-completion and standard post-completion OPT, provided that the job is directly related to the student's program of study. While a student engages in such activity during a period of post-completion OPT, he or she is not considered "unemployed":
- Regular paid
employment in a position directly related to the
student's program of study.
- For post-completion OPT, the work must be for at least 20 hours per week
- Students may work for multiple employers, as long as it is directly related to the student's program of study.
- Payment by multiple short-term multiple employers. SEVP says that "Students, such as musicians and other performing artists, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration."
- Work for hire. SEVP says, "This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students should be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company."
- Self-employed business owner. SEVP says, "Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student should be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program."
- Employment through an agency. SEVP says, "Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency."
- Volunteers or unpaid interns: Standard OPT. SEVP OPT Policy Guidance states that, "Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work should be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. A student should be able to provide evidence, acquired from the student's employer, to verify that he or she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment."
What should students report to ensure that their status does not expire due to excessive unemployment time?
Students are encouraged to report changes in employment to their Designated School Official (DSO) as soon as possible. SEVIS recommends that students report changes within 10 business days of the change to avoid situations where a DHS official may determine the student is out of status.
The following table suggests the best way to report employment or a change in employment:
Change to a new job
Multiple short-term gigs in one period with less than 10 days between gigs
|Work for hire (start)||
|Work for hire (ending more than 10 days between the end of one contract and the beginning of another contract or a new job)||
|More than 10 days of unemployment||
|Self-employed business owner (start)||
|Self-employed business owner (end)||
|Student decides to exit the United States and complete his or her F-1 status prior to the end date of OPT
How should students report employment/unemployment information to the DSO?
SEVIS recommends using e-mail as it provides both evidence of reporting and the date reported. Students should keep a record of all reports made to the DSO and the method by which the report is made.
What is the effect on a student's status if the student exceeds the period of unemployment?
A student who has exceeded the period of unemployment while on post-completion OPT has violated his or her status unless he or she has taken one of the following actions:
- Applied to continue his or her education by a change of level or transferring to another SEVIS-certified school
- Departed the United States
- Taken action to otherwise maintain legal status
How will DHS enforce this provision?
Students may be denied future immigration benefits that rely on the student's valid F-1 status if DHS determines that the student exceeded the limitations on unemployment.
Additionally, DHS may examine SEVIS data for an individual, a selected group, or all students on post-completion OPT and terminate a student's record if it fails to show the student maintained the proper period of employment. In such cases, the student will be given an opportunity to show that he or she complied with all OPT requirements, including maintaining employment.