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Types of employment allowed under Optional Practical Training, (OPT)

Under current federal immigration regulations, all OPT employment must be “related to the student’s degree program” and appropriate for your degree level.

Limitation on Unemployment

Students approved for the 12 month post-completion OPT may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during the approved OPT dates or 120 days for students granted a 17-month OPT extension. Periods of up to 10 days between the end of one job and the beginning of the next job will not be included in the calculation for time spent unemployed. To be considered to be actively using your OPT you must be engaged in employment.

This employment may include:

  • Paid employment: Students may work part time (no less than 20 hours per week when on post-completion OPT) or full time.
  • Multiple employers: Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to each individual student’s degree program.
  • Short-term multiple employers (performing artists): Students, such as musicians and other performing artists, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration.
  • Work for hire: This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students should be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
  • Self-employed business owner: Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student should be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program.
  • Employment through an agency or consulting firm: Students on post-completion OPT should be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
  • Unpaid employment: Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week. A student should be able to provide evidence, acquired from the student’s employer, to verify that he or she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment. Note: Students who are on a STEM extension cannot meet their employment requirement through volunteer work.

Last modified January 19 2011 02:31 PM

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