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 SEVIS (SEVP) Portal* for initial reporting and within 10 days of any change for the following:
- Name and address
- Employer name and address
- Changes to your employment (including termination of employment)
You will need to have your SEVIS ID (located on your Form I-20 starting with the “N”).
*Upon OPT Approval, you will be sent an account activation link from do-not-reply.SEVP@ice.dhs.gov which is valid for 14 days. You may need to check your junk mail folder. For SEVP Portal troubleshooting, please visit the SEVP Portal Help Hub.
You must be employed for a majority of your OPT authorization period. All employment must be related to your degree and at your degree level.
If you are unemployed for more than 90 days (in aggregate) during your post-completion OPT period (from the date you were authorized), you will no longer be maintaining your F-1 status and your immigration record may be automatically terminated. You should arrange to depart the U.S. prior to the 90th day to avoid accruing unlawful presence.
Types of Post-Completion OPT Activities Permitted / To Be Reported
The following are considered valid OPT employment activities according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and should be reported:
- 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, either simultaneously or one after the other; all employment must be related to the student’s degree program
- Short-term employers. Students, such as performing artists may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). Students must maintain a list of all gigs, 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 all documents proving the existence and validity of the business. It is recommended to keep detailed calendars.
- 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 choose to work without pay if others are paid for doing the same work). The student must be able to provide evidence to confirm "employment" for at least 20 hours per week and how it relates to their degree.
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.
Visit our Cap-Gap Extension of OPT page for more information.