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OPT: Work, Travel, Etc.

From the start and end date of your post-completion OPT authorization (the dates on your Employment Authorization Card--EAD) the following rules apply:
  • You cannot be unemployed for more than 90 accumulated days. 
  • There is no grace period after the 90 days of unemployment. 
  • Each day that you do not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment (including weekends)
  • To avoid violating status, you should prepare to transfer to another school, change educational level, leave the United States, or change to a different immigration status
If you are concerned that you might go beyond the 90 days of unemployment, contact your DSO Advisor in the Global Education Office.
Reporting Requirements to the Global Programs Center

Address changes and legal name changes must be reported to your DSO Advisor by email within 10 days.

All employment information must reported to your DSO Advisor.  Email your Advisor with the following information: 
  • Name of employer
  • Start date of employment
  • Mailing address of employer
  • Change of employer, with end and start dates of employment
  • Decision to leave the United States and complete F-1 status prior to OPT expiration date (if you are no longer employed)
  • Your current residential and mailing address (if different)
  • Your email address
NoteMake sure and keep OPT employment history for your own records.  This includes contracts, letters, pay stubs, etc.  You may need it for future reference and for tax reporting purposes. 
Employment Allowed While on OPT

Employment allowed for OPT includes the following rules:
  • During the 12-month OPT time period, you may accept any job directly related to your field of study and that reflects your level of education.
  • You must be employed at least 20 hours per week
  • You may work in your field of study for more than one employer.
  • You can do work for hire, e.g.,contract work in your field of study.
  • You may be self-employed in your field of study.  You must have a business license and document your active engagement in business related to your degree.
  • Employment in your field of study through an agency or consulting firm.
  • You may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern in your field of study, as long as this does not violate labor laws.
Social Security Information

You will need a Social Security Number in order to receive payment from an employer.

As an F-1 student you will not have to pay Social Security (FICA) taxes for the first 5 years in the U.S. as long as you continue to declare non-resident status for tax purposes.  For more information on taxes, go to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) webpage.  Our advice is to consult with a tax preparation company or your own accountant in order to file taxes.

Health Insurance

Health insurance is extremely important while you are on OPT.  If your employer does not insure you, you can purchase an individual plan through LewerMark.

While you are actively working on your OPT there are certain documents that you must carry with you when traveling outside the U.S..  These include the following:
  • I-20 signed for travel by your DSO Advisor within the last 6 months
  • EAD card (this card alone is not proof of your legal status to reenter the U.S.)
  • Valid passport
  • Unexpired F-1 visa (unless you are Canadian)
  • Evidence of employment in your field of study (e.g., letter of employment, contract, written job offer).  
Study While on OPT

While doing OPT you cannot start a new academic degree program.  If you do, your OPT is automatically terminated.

Grace Period

Students who do not exceed 90 days of unemployment and report employment to the Global Education Office and your Advisor as required automatically receive a 60-day grace period after the end date listed on the EAD.  Within this 60-day grace period, you can:
  • Leave the U.S.  Once you leave the U.S. after completing your studies and OPT, you are not eligible to reenter with your current I-20.  The grace period is for travel within the states in preparation for your departure from the U.S.
  • Request a new I-20 if you will continue at CCS in a new degree program.
  • Transfer to another school and request the transfer of your SEVIS record to that school
  • Apply to change status to another visa category