Employment While on OPT
- You must wait until you have the OPT card and reach the "Start Date" to begin working.
- Between the time you graduate and the Start Date on the card, you cannot work. This includes on-campus employment.
- Work must be your field of study.
- You may work for as many hours and as many employers as you want. Your employer does not need to sponsor you because you already have work authorization. If your employer does not understand OPT, they may contact your foreign student advisor at IU Southeast. Please inform your advisor if your employer plans to contact the office.
- You will fill out an I-9 for your employer when you begin to work. Show the employer your EAD (OPT card), passport, I-20, and I-94 card. Use the end date on the card to for the expiration date of your employment authorization.
- You are not authorized to work past the end date printed on your EAD. In order to work past that date, you must obtain a different type of employment authorization, (i.e. H- 1B). Ask your employer for details.
Reporting Requirements While on OPT
All students on OPT have ten days to inform their International Student Advisor of the following:
- Any change in name or address (this can be done via Onestart)
- Any change in immigration status
- Any interruption of employment (see additional information below), including a return to studies
Employment Tracking and Reporting
It is the responsibility of each F-1 student on OPT to keep track of employment-related information for the duration of the OPT authorization. Immigration regulations require that students pursuing OPT report interruptions in employment to their International Student Advisor within 10 business days to avoid situations where a Department of Homeland Security official may determine the student is out of status.
You will need to keep very careful track of your employment – dates, employer names, addresses, supervisor contact information. It will be very important for you to track your days of unemployment, and also to retain supporting documentation of the periods of time when you are employed (including offer letters, pay stubs, etc.). For your convenience in maintaining accurate records, we have provided a downloadable Excel spreadsheet for your use. Filling out the information in the spreadsheet will help you keep track of the names of your employers and the dates when you worked for them, as well as the dates of unemployment that you may be accruing.
- As of April 8, 2008, students granted post-completion OPT can accrue up to 90 days of unemployment.
- Any period of unemployment will count toward the 90 total days of unemployment. This means that any days for which you are not employed or remaining on payroll count toward the 90-day total.
- Students whose employers filed a timely H-1B petition and were granted cap-gap coverage are permitted a total of 90 days of unemployment for the entire period of OPT.
- Days spent outside of the US while unemployed count towards the 90 days of unemployment permitted.
- If a student on OPT nears the 90th day of unemployment, it would be best to make plans to depart the US, apply for a change of status to a different status, or make preparations to begin a new degree program. Action would need to be taken early enough so that by the end of the 90th day of unemployment, the student would have another option already in progress. DHS has stated that an F-1 student who is unemployed for more than 90 days will be considered to be out of status.
- Your International Student Advisor will not take any adverse action on your SEVIS record regarding unemployment. IU Southeast’s responsibility is to report interruptions in employment that the F-1 student reports to OIS. If you fail to report that information or accrue more than 90 days of unemployment, this may result in DHS not approving future benefits or requests.
Unpaid Employment Option
One strategy for maintaining your status while on OPT is to accept unpaid employment. You may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern, where this does not violate any labor laws. This unpaid work must also be in your major field of study. Students on post completion OPT must be able to provide evidence from the employer that the student worked at least 21 hours per week during the period of employment.
Be careful not to “volunteer” without pay in positions that US citizens would be paid for. This is designed to protect you, the employer and other workers.