While you were a student you maintained status by taking 12 units every semester and not engaging in unauthorized employment. On OPT, you must also follow the following guidelines to maintain your student status:
You should wait for your OPT to be approved and be in receipt of the actual card before traveling outside of the U.S. If you must leave the country while your OPT application is pending, then you should be sure to carry your receipt notice from USCIS as well as a letter of support from the Office of International Services. If you do not have a valid visa and your OPT application is still pending, it is strongly recommended that you wait for the approval before applying for a new visa.
A student engaged in OPT before completion of studies follows the same procedure for visits abroad and re-entry as all F-1 students.If you engage in OPT following the completion of your studies and you travel outside the US temporarily (less than 5 months), you can be readmitted to resume employment for the remainder of the period authorized on your EAD card provided you present the following:
- You must apply for and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD/I-797D) from USCIS with the assistance of the DSO in OIS before you can begin work.
- The application must be properly filed with the USCIS before the end of your 60-day grace period following your program of study. Download Form I-765 from the USCIS website. Click on the Immigration Forms tab and scroll down to Form I-765.
You can engage in OPT for any employer in the US. as long as the employment is related to your field of study and the work is appropriate for master level's work. You may work for more than one employer and/or change employers without USCIS authorization during your authorized OPT period, but you must remember to report your employment to OIS. The work may be paid or unpaid. You may work as an independent contractor or even your own business.
You can do OPT for a cumulative maximum of 12 months during any uninterrupted stay in F-1 status. You may be authorized to do 12 months of OPT following each educational level, e.g., MA→PhD. For students who majored in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics), there is an additional 17-month extension; however, MIIS majors to not qualify. There may also be an extension of OPT if you have an approved or receipted H-1b application. Ask the OIS for more information on this.
- You must be in F-1 status at the time of the application.
- You must be in good F-1 status.
- You must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis at a DHS-approved school for one full academic year.
- It is available before and after completion of your educational objective, but different rules apply to pre- and post-completion OPT.
- Students in English language training programs are not eligible.
OPT is defined as “temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student’s major area of study.” [8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)] OPT allows F-1 students to gain practical experience in their field of study for one year following program completion. All students are eligible to apply for OPT as long as application procedures are followed. Students who study English are not eligible for OPT.