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.  Here is what you need to know to maintain your F-1 status during OPT. 

Appropriate employment

All work on OPT must be:

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

OPT is also very flexible:

  • Work may be paid or unpaid
  • You may work for multiple employers (all employment must be related to your degree), including short-term multiple employers (primarily for performing artists having “gigs”).
  • You may work in contract positions or work through an employment agency
  • You may start your own business and/or work for yourself (please ensure you have the proper business license and/or paperwork)

In all cases, you cannot begin work until you receive your EAD card AND your OPT start date happens.


  • During your 12 months of OPT, you may accrue up to 90 days of unemployment
  • The 90 days begins from your OPT start date on your EAD card
  • The 90 days can give you additional flexibility (ex: use 30 days before the start of a 3-month internship, use 30 more days, then start a permanent job)
  • If you reach 90 days, you must report this via the OPT Reporting Survey and leave the U.S. as soon as possible.  You will not have an additional grace period. 

Keep Records of Your Employment

It is your responsibility to keep records of your employment, paid or unpaid.  You may be asked about these records in the future (especially if you apply for an H-1B, green card or other US immigration status).

Examples of records to keep:

  • Offer letters/contracts
  • Payroll records
  • All job start/end dates, employer names/addresses and number of hours per week worked

Student Reporting Requirements 

  • You must report any changes (in address, employer, name or status in the US) within 10 days.  Please see the OPT Reporting Survey  page for more information.

Traveling Overseas During OPT

Remember that your status is still F-1. In order to re-enter the U.S. you must have:

  • Valid EAD card.  This means you cannot re-enter the US until your OPT is approved and you have your physical EAD card.  Please discuss your travel plans with your IO advisor, especially if plan to travel after your graduation!
  • I-20 with travel signature (no more than 6 months old)  Need a new I-20?  Email your IO advisor
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp or plans to renew yours
  • Current passport (valid for at least 6 months into the future)
  • Job offer letter (highly recommended, but not required)

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. 

After OPT

You will have a 60-day grace period from the date your OPT expires to leave the U.S., apply for a change of status, or transfer your I-20 to another school.

You may be eligible for the Cap-Gap Extension if you are changing to an H-1B visa with an October 1st start date.