Maintaining Status During OPT
Post-Completion OPT is an extension of F-1 student status. While on OPT, you must follow the regulations to maintain your status.
Utilize the "OPT Information Reporting Form" report within 10 days any change in the following:
You must be employed while on OPT. If you are unemployed for more than a total of 90 days during the 12 month OPT period, you will no longer be maintaining your F-1 status.
Types of Post-Completion OPT Activities that Should be Reported
All OPT employment must be directly related to the student's major field of study and commensurate with the degree level. The following are considered valid OPT activities according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and should be reported to the Glavin Office:
- Paid employment. Students may work part time (at least 20 hours per week when on post-completion OPT) or full-time.
- Multiple employers. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student's degree program and for pre-completion OPT cannot exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours.
- Short-term multiple employers. Students, such as performing artists may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). Students must maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration.
- Work for hire (1099 independent contractors). This is when an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. Students must maintain a record showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
- Self-employed business owner. Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must work full time (over 20 hours a week) and maintain records proving the existence and validity of the business.
- Employment through an agency. 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.
Unpaid employment. Students may serve as volunteers, unpaid interns, researchers, community service workers, etc. ONLY where this does not violate any labor laws (summary: cannot chose to work without pay if others are paid for doing the same work). Student must be able to provide evidence from the organization that the student performed services for at least 20 hours per week.
Cap-Gap Extension of OPT
F-1 students who are engaged in a period of post-completion OPT and have applied for a change of status to H-1B, may benefit from the "Cap Gap" extension of OPT: an automatic extension of status and OPT work authorization to October 1st. If you qualify, request an updated Form I-20 by emailing email@example.com and attaching a copy of your H-1B petition receipt notice or approval notice. The duration of status and work authorization extensions would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf.
Students are strongly recommended not to depart the U.S. during the period of their cap-gap extension until they qualify for travel in H-1B status.