Maintaining Status While on Post-Completion OPT

What must I do to maintain my F-1 status while on OPT?

To maintain your F-1 status while on Post-Completion OPT, you must:

  • Report your employment and U.S. address to ISS. It is your responsibility to ensure that any employment you accept is directly related to your field of study. When you report employment to ISS you will be required to provide details on your employment, including a description of how the job is directly related to your field of study. Refer to the section titled “How do I update my Student Contact Information and OPT Employment Information” for instructions on how to report to ISS.   
  • Work at least 20 hours per week.
  • Not exceed the allotted 90 days of unemployment time.  For additional information, read the section titled “Do I have to find a job?”
  • Report to ISS:
    • If your name changes 
    • If your residential address changes (must report within ten days)
    • If your employer changes or your employment address changes
    • If you lose your job 
    • If your immigration status changes (e.g. change to H-1B)
    • Report any changes in F-2 dependents. Request an F-2 be added to your SEVIS record using the procedure described on our page. Notify ISS if any F-2 dependent changes status or leaves the U.S. and will no longer be a dependent on your record while you are on OPT.

Do I have to find a job?

YES.  F-1 students may not exceed 90 days of unemployment during their 12 months of Post-Completion OPT, and must report their employer’s name and address to their school within that time frame.

 If you exceed 90 days of unemployment, the Department of Homeland Security plans to automatically terminate your SEVIS record in the future.

If your SEVIS record is terminated, your F-1 status and employment authorization will no longer be valid and you will have to leave the U.S. immediately.

Therefore, to maintain your F-1 status, you must report employment to ISS as soon as you accept a job offer and before you exceed 90 days of unemployment.  Possible consequences to remaining in the U.S. after the 90-day deadline without a job include denial of future immigration benefits, detention and deportation, etc.

What types of employment are acceptable while on OPT?

There are various types of employment you may accept while on Post-Completion OPT.  When you report employment to ISS, you will be required to explain how your employment is directly related to your field of study.

Any employment you choose must be directly related to your program of study. It is your responsibility to prove and document how your employment is directly related to your field of study. 

Regular paid employment

Employment can be part-time (at least 20 hours per week when on Post-Completion OPT) or full-time.  There is no defined maximum number of hours one may work while on Post-Completion OPT.  

Multiple employers

All work must be related to your field of study.

Payment by multiple short-term employers

Ex. Musicians and other performing artists may work for multiple short-term employers (gigs).  You should maintain a list of all gigs, including dates and duration.

Work for hire

This is commonly referred to as “1099 employment”, which refers to an individual performing a service based on a contract.  You should keep a record of the length of each contract as well as the name and contact information for each contracting company.

Self-employed business owner

You may start a business and be self-employed.  You must have proper business licenses.

Employment by an agency

You must keep proof that you worked at least an average of 20 hours per week while employed by an agency.

Volunteers or unpaid interns

You may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern provided that you are not violating any labor laws. Please refer to the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division page for information.

  • You must work at least 20 hours per week
  • Note that although volunteer employment is permitted during the 12-Month Post-Completion OPT, it is not permitted on the 24-Month OPT STEM Extension.

It is essential that you report all employment to ISS, and keep documentation (e.g. employment letters, contracts, timesheets, pay stubs, etc.) of all of your employment while on OPT

Such documentation should include the position held, proof of the duration of that position, contact information for your supervisor and a description of the work.  If it is not clear from the job description that the work is related to your field of study, then you should obtain a letter from your supervisor stating how your degree relates to the position.

Which documents should I have to prove that I have been employed?

  • Copies of job offer letters and agreements/contracts with all OPT employers including start and end dates.
  • Copies of job descriptions including job title, duties, location, pay rate and proposed number of hours to be worked per week.
  • If you worked for an agency or consultancy, keep evidence of the projects you worked on.
  • Keep copies of your pay vouchers or pay stubs for all periods of employment.
  • Maintain copies of your bank statements that show direct or corresponding deposits from your employer(s).
  • Copies of you W-2 tax forms.

If you engage in employment that is not paid while on OPT, we recommend you keep the following records:

  • Copies of employment agreements or contracts with the employer including start and end dates, training mode (on location, online, etc) and location of the internship/unpaid training for each employer.
  • Copies of all diplomas, completion certificates and/or certifications that you received related to the training programs identified.
  • If you worked/trained as an unpaid employee for a third party keep evidence of the projects/contracts you worked on.
  • Copies of company time and attendance records that document your daily tasks in detail for all employers during the unpaid internship or training.​​​​

You will not be required to submit this proof of employment to UB's Office of International Education, but it may be requested by USCIS if you are applying for future immigration benefits.

How are the 90 days of unemployment counted?

Each day of unemployment (including weekends) is counted towards the 90-day requirement for students on Post-Completion OPT.  Time spent outside the U.S. counts as unemployment unless the travel was work-related or during an official leave from one’s job.

How do I request a travel signature on my OPT I-20?

If you plan to travel outside the U.S. and the signature on page 2 of your OPT I-20 will be more than six months old at the time of re-entry, you need a new travel endorsement signature on your I-20. To request an updated I-20, log in to myISSS using your UBIT name and password, and click "Students Currently Approved for OPT", then "OPT Travel Validation Endorsement Request".

Please submit your request at least 10 business days before you plan to leave the U.S.

How do I update my Student Contact Information and OPT Employment Information?

Login to myISSS using your UBIT name and password.  Once you have logged on, enter your current residential address on the “Update OPT Student Contact Information” E-Form.  Then, update your employment information on the “Add or Update OPT Employment” E-Form.  You will be required to upload a copy of your EAD card (front side only).

If you previously reported employment to ISS and are no longer working for that employer, you must report your end date of employment. To report your employment end date, first enter your previous employer’s information on the “Add or Update OPT Employment” E-Form.  Then, on the same E-Form, enter your new employment details.  You can report up to three employers on the same E-Form.

If after reporting updates you would like an updated I-20 or you need a reprinted I-20 for a reason other than travel you can request one on myISSS using the "I-20 Reprint Request" e-form.

How long can I remain in the U.S. after my EAD expires?

All students on OPT have a 60-day grace period after their EAD expires.  You are permitted to remain inside the U.S. during those 60 days to prepare for your departure, apply to change your status (if eligible) or begin a new degree program.  If you are not admitted to a new degree program or do not submit a change-of-status application before the end of the 60 days, you must leave the U.S.

During your 60-day grace period, you may not work.

What happens if I violate my immigration status?

If a student on OPT fails to maintain their immigration status, as explained above, the student will violate their immigration status. Status violations are serious and can result in the accrual of unlawful presence. It is extremely important that you adhere to all reporting deadlines, understand your obligations as an F-1 student on OPT, and follow all state and federal laws. If you have questions about status violations while on OPT, please contact ISS.

Important Reminders

  • If you transfer to another school or begin study at another educational level at UB, then your OPT authorization will automatically be terminated.  
  • If you are accepted to begin another degree program at UB and your OPT has not yet expired, your OPT will terminate on the first day of classes for your new degree program.
  • If you later decide not to mail your OPT application to USCIS for any reason, you must notify ISS immediately so that we can cancel your OPT recommendation in SEVIS.
  • If you decide to leave the U.S. and are no longer pursuing your OPT, please complete the "Departure Form for Students on OPT" located in myISSS.
  • While on OPT, you are still in F-1 status.