It is your responsibility to maintain your F-1 status while on Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Please review the information below for important reminders regarding your status. Failure to maintain your status on OPT may result in invalidation of status, and/or could impact future immigration benefits like STEM Extension, H-1B petitions, or Permanent Residency cases.

Do Not Work Until You Receive Your EAD and the Start Date on the Card Is Current

If you work using your post-OPT EAD card before the start date listed on your card, or before completing your program, you will be considered to be working without authorization, which may lead to severe consequences.

  • Working without legal status is a very serious offense. Requests for reinstatement of your student status based on illegal work are usually denied by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Denial of a reinstatement application means that USCIS will revoke your OPT work authorization and request that you depart the country within a designated period of time.

All OPT employment must be in your field of study and for at least 20 hours per week

  • SEVP has issued guidance on determining a direct relationship between employment and a student's major area of study, putting the onus on the student and the International Student and Scholar Advisor (DSO) to confirm that all OPT work is in the student's field of study. 
  • A student must work at least 20 hours per week in a qualifying position in their field of study to be considered employed. If a student has a variable schedule within a month, it should average out to at least 20 hours per week.
  • Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns in their field of study as long as the position does not violate any labor laws. The work should be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-OPT. Students should be able to provide evidence, acquired from their employer, to verify that they worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.

Unemployment Days While on Post-OPT:

  • Post-OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment.
  • Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-OPT carried out under the initial post-OPT authorization.
  • Students granted a 24-month OPT STEM Extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during the total 36-month OPT period.
  • For assistance calculating your unemployment days, please visit the Study in the States Unemployment Counter webpage.

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