OPT Employment Options

  • You may only begin employment once you have the EAD in your possession and you have reached the start date on the card. Email confirmation from USCIS will not suffice as evidence of eligibility for employment. You may only work within the dates printed on the card.
  • Your job must be directly related to your academic field of study. You are not permitted to work on campus after graduation unless the job directly relates to your field and falls within the dates on your EAD. You need to be able to make logical connection between your studies and employment.
  • Employment must be a minimum of 20 hours per week, paid or unpaid, to maintain legal F-1 OPT status. You should be able to provide evidence, acquired from your employer, to verify that you worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.
  • Limitation on Unemployment for Post-Completion OPT. Once your post-completion OPT period starts, you may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment within the dates on your EAD. You need to submit an OPT update and report your employment to OISS in order to stop the unemployment counting in SEVIS. Time spent outside the United States, if not employed by a U.S. employer, is counted towards the 90-day period of unemployment. Unemployment days are cumulative, so if you are employed for less than the length of your OPT time and begin to look for another employer, you do not get an additional 90 days of unemployment.

Unemployment Caution

SEVIS records will automatically terminate for students who have no employment reported for 90 days. Be sure that you have made alternate plans and communicated them to OISS before your record is terminated. If you have any concerns, you can always contact your OISS adviser.

Types of Employment Allowed on Post-Completion OPT

Multiple employers You may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to your degree program.
Multiple short-term employers You may work for multiple short-term employers. For instance, if you are a musician or performing artist, you can have gigs. Keep a list of all gigs, the dates, and the duration.
Work for hire Commonly referred to as 1099 employment, where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If you work for hire, keep documents showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
Self-employed business owner You may start a business and be self-employed. You should be able to prove that you have the proper business licenses and are actively engaged in a business related to your degree program.
Employment through an agency or staffing firm You may use an agency or staffing company to find employment. You must be able to provide evidence showing that you worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
Unpaid employment You may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this practice does not violate any labor laws.

Important: Keep Records of your Employment

Keep records of your employment history for your personal file, to present as evidence of maintaining lawful status should you apply for future immigration benefits.

Examples of records to keep:

  • offer letters
  • contracts
  • payroll stubs
  • letters describing volunteer activity and hours
  • EAD cards, even when OPT has ended