Spread the love

The rules for preserving your status while doing Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) differ from those in your program of study. During your program of study, your status is determined by the start and finish dates of your program. Once on OPT, your status is determined by the start and end dates of your OPT (as shown on your EAD). It is critical that you follow the OPT criteria in order to keep your F-1 visa status.

As a reminder, if you filed your OPT application on schedule and received an I-797 receipt letter from USCIS, you may remain in the United States while waiting for a decision from USCIS, even after your 60-day grace period has expired. You may not begin working until USCIS has approved your application and you have gotten your EAD card.

Failure to maintain F-1 status may result in the closure of your F-1 SEVIS record and the loss of F-1 benefits. Terminated records are subject to inspection by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which may result in the denial of future immigration benefits or even deportation.

To keep your F-1 status while on OPT, you must do the following:

  • Report certain information to International Student Services by submitting the OPT Report Form for periodic SEVIS record updates. Note that this is a regulatory requirement, and you will be considered to have violated your F-1 status if you do not comply. Areas of required reporting for SEVIS Compliance include:
  • Changes in your personal information (ex. local/home country addresses, email address, name as listed on your passport, departure from the U.S. without intentions of return, etc.) within 10 days of the move and/or update.
  • Employment information (ex. employer contact information, breaks in employment, employer changes, etc.) immediately as updates and/or changes occur.
  • Changes in academic plans (admittance to a degree program at another institution) as soon as the changes and/or updates have occurred.
  • Changes in immigration status to a visa status other than F-1 as soon as you have received your Notice of Approval of change of status or entered the U.S. under another status.

Keep up to date on immigration rules and regulations pertaining to F-1 students by:

  • Reading through the International Student Services website and OPT FAQs to make sure you are following all posted guidance.
  • Checking your email regularly for immigration updates and office updates from the International Student Services office
  • Contacting the international student advisor at the International Student Services office for advice on immigration-related matters

Following the expiration of OPT, four potential possibilities for developing professionals to remain in the United States are highlighted below:

Option #1: Apply for an H-1B Visa

Individuals with a Bachelor’s Degree or advanced certification, as well as a sponsoring company (note: this is a rigorous process that must begin months before OPT expires), may be able to apply for an H-1B visa. This is a temporary worker visa that can be granted for up to six years. If the individual quits or is fired by the sponsoring employer, the visa becomes null and void, and the individual must either find a new sponsor or return to their native country within the timeframe allowed.

Option #2: Apply for a J-1 Visa

USCIS frequently grants J-1 visas to professors, researchers, and exchange students. The application must be supported by an academic institution, the government, or a private company, and the activity must be largely focused on teaching, consulting, or conducting specialized research. As with the H-1B visa, this post must not displace a similarly qualified and available American citizen.

Option #3: Start a Business

Individuals having the financial wherewithal to create a business may be eligible for a variety of permanent immigration visas, including those in the EB-5 category, which are accessible to petitioners with specialized knowledge or advanced degrees.

Option #4: Go Back to School

Individuals who return to school to obtain an advanced degree (Master’s or PhD) may be able to keep their F1 visa. Those who were unable to obtain an H-1B visa due to the restricted supply available each year may choose this option.

Read Also: What Are Your Plans After Graduation F1 Visa?

Current F-1/OPT students must have their immigration and immigration-related documentation and information with them. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • All F-1/OPT I-20s ever held (from Hampshire College as well as any other school you have attended)
  • All EAD cards received from U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • Valid Passport
  • F-1 visa stamp in passport (even if expired)
  • I-94 (white card stapled in passport)
  • Any receipt notice or documentation issued from USCIS, Customs and Border Patrol, Immigration Customs and Enforcement, etc.
  • School transcripts, diplomas, certificates, etc.
  • Record of ALL US and home country residential and mailing addresses
  • Record of employment history: names of employers, positions held/job titles, proof of employment duration, employer and supervisor contact information, description of positions held, breaks in employment, etc.
  • Record of ALL reports made to the international student advisor at the ISS office (and how the reports were made), i.e. copy of OPT Report Form email, relevant email advisement, fax confirmation reports, etc.

Former F-1/OPT holders should keep their immigration and immigration-related documents and/or copies of these documents indefinitely.

While on OPT, you may travel outside the United States and utilize your F-1 documents (mentioned below) to re-enter the country:

  • I-20 endorsed within the last 6 months by the international student advisor at International Student Services
  • OPT EAD card
  • Proof of employment
  • Passport valid for up to 6 months into the future
  • Valid F-1 visa

A student can only request for a “extension” of their OPT under two circumstances:

  1. STEM students may be eligible to apply for a 24-month STEM extension of OPT after their initial 12 month OPT. For details on eligibility requirements and application procedures, please refer to 24- Month Extension.
  2. Students who have been approved for H-1B as of Oct. 1 may be eligible for an extension of their current OPT until Sept 30. For details on eligibility requirements and application procedures, please refer to Cap-Gap Extension.

If you do not fall under either category, you are not eligible to apply for any additional OPT beyond the 12-month period.

About Author


MegaIncomeStream is a global resource for Business Owners, Marketers, Bloggers, Investors, Personal Finance Experts, Entrepreneurs, Financial and Tax Pundits, available online. egaIncomeStream has attracted millions of visits since 2012 when it started publishing its resources online through their seasoned editorial team. The Megaincomestream is arguably a potential Pulitzer Prize-winning source of breaking news, videos, features, and information, as well as a highly engaged global community for updates and niche conversation. The platform has diverse visitors, ranging from, bloggers, webmasters, students and internet marketers to web designers, entrepreneur and search engine experts.