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OPT & Unemployment

Students on the first 12 months of post-completion OPT may not be unemployed for more than 90 days total. Students with an authorized STEM extension for an additional 24 months of OPT may not be unemployed for more than 150 days during the total 36 month OPT period.

You can avoid accruing unemployment days while on OPT by engaging in activities, paid or unpaid, in your field of study for at least 20 hours per week. These activities include:

  • Standard employment
  • Paid or unpaid internships
  • Working for multiple employers
  • Work for hire
  • Self employed business owner
  • Employment through an agency or consulting firm
  • Volunteering

Update your SEVP Portal and report to the ISC via the portal any changes to your employment, address or phone within 10 days. Keep all documentation connected to your employment (e.g. job offer letter, supervisor letter etc.) as proof that you have not exceeded the 90 day unemployment rule.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has said they will be terminating immigration records of students who have exceeded 90 days of unemployment. If your immigration record is terminated, you must leave the US immediately; there is no grace period.

If you exceed the 90 days of unemployment, you will no longer be in a valid immigration status, and this can both affect your ability to remain in the US, and may mean ineligibility for future immigration benefits (such as a change of status to H-1B), or denial of a future visa application.