Additional Requirements for Post-Completion OPT

Maintaining status

While you are on post-completion OPT, your status is still F-1, and it is still your responsibility to maintain that status. This involves the following:

  • You cannot begin working until you receive the EAD card and the start date on it has passed.
  • You may not work beyond the end date on your EAD card.
  • You must work in a job that meets the employment requirements (listed below).
  • You cannot accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment.
    • The 90 days begins with the start date on the EAD card.
    • If you reach 90 days, you are expected to leave the U.S. immediately, and report that via the survey.
  • Ensure that you have the documents you need to travel (listed below).
  • Complete the reporting requirements (explained below).

Status of dependents: Dependents of F-1 students in F-2 status will continue to be in F-2 status while you are using OPT. As long as you maintain your F-1 status, your F-2 dependent will continue to be in status. After you apply to the IO for OPT, you will receive a new I-20 for your dependent(s) verifying that you will be on OPT.

Reporting requirements

You must fulfill OPT reporting requirements using the Post-Completion OPT Reporting Survey on the first day of your OPT and within 10 days of any of the following:

  • Changes in employment and unemployment (starting a new job, stopping a job, etc);
  • New residential address;
  • Name changes;
  • Immigration status changes;
  • or if you leave the U.S. permanently.

Employment requirements

Your job must be:

  • Directly related to the field of study listed on the I-20;
  • at least 20 hours per week.

Other requirements are more flexible:

  • It may be paid or unpaid. If you will not be paid, we recommend that you obtain a letter detailing your work and dates of volunteering for proof of having maintained F-1 status.
  • It may be for multiple employers (all employment must be related to your degree), including short-term multiple employers (primarily for performing artists having “gigs”).
  • It may be work-for-hire (contract work where you are performing a service which may not constitute formal career employment)
  • It may be self-employed business owner
  • It may be through an agency

Note: In all cases, you must be able to provide some form of proof of your employment including dates, duration, names of employer/contract, companies/agencies that can verify the job you did. If you are self-employed, you must be able to show proof of proper business licenses (if necessary) and active engagement.

Travel

Remember that your status is still F-1.

In order to re-enter the U.S. you must have:

  • Valid EAD card. Note: all EAD cards say 'not valid for reentry to the US.' This means that the card alone does not guarantee your reentry but rather you must have (I20, passport and visa stamp - see below)
  • I-20 showing OPT with travel signature no more than 6 months old
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp, unless you will be able to use Automatic Visa Revalidation
  • Current passport, valid at least six-months after the date of last entry
  • If you are, or will be employed, we recommend that you carry your offer letter. 

Travel between graduation and OPT approval

Many students wish to travel home after you have graduated but before your OPT has been approved by USCIS.

If this is your plan, please keep in mind:

  • You cannot re-enter the U.S. until you have the OPT EAD card in your hand.
  • If you will leave the U.S. while your OPT is pending, remember that the OPT approval from USCIS can take 3-4 months, so plan your travel arrangements and job search accordingly.

NOTE: If you do not apply for OPT, but travel outside of the U.S. after the end-date listed on your OPT (during the 60-day grace-period), you will have negated your eligibility to apply. OPT regulations require that you be physically in the U.S. and in F-1 status at the time of application.