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Eligible OPT Employment

All employment pursued with any type of OPT Authorization must be directly related to your major field of study and commensurate with your degree level. The following types of paid and unpaid experiences are considered valid OPT activities according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:
 
  Standard 12-Month OPT 24-Month STEM OPT
General Considerations
  •  All employment must directly relate to your major field of study.
  •  All work performed must be commensurate with your degree level
  • For students with Post-Completion OPT authorization, you must work for 20 hours per week. or more in order for the employment to be considered “reportable.”
  • All employers must be registered in the DHS E-Verify employment verification system.
  • All employment must be paid.
  • All employment must be documented on a Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. Per regulation, Immigration Services cannot recommend STEM OPT for you until you provide this completed document.
Paid
Employment
You may accept paid positions. You must accept paid positions.
Multiple
Employers
You may work for more than one employer, but every position you accept must be directly related to your major field of study and, if you are only authorized for Part-Time OPT, you cannot work any more than 20 hours cumulative between all positions. You may work for more than one employer, but each employer must be registered in the DHS E-Verify employment verification system. Additionally, every position you accept must be paid and documented on its own Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. Your I-20 must be updated to reflect both employers.
Contract Employment
(1099 Employment)
You may work as an independent contractor performing a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, you must be prepared to provide evidence that reflects the duration of the contract periods and the names and addresses of any and all contracting companies with whom you work. By regulation, this type of work is not allowed.
Self-Employed
Business Owner
You may start a business and be your own employer. In this situation, you must work more than 20 hours per week. You must also be able to prove that you possess the proper business licenses and are actively engaged in business directly related to your program of study. By regulation, this type of work is not allowed.
Employed by an Agency You can establish a relationship with an agency that can place you at different sites. You must be able to provide evidence showing that all work you perform at your placement sites is related to your field of study and that you worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency. You can use an Employment Agency to find employment; however, by regulation, working through an Employment Agency does not qualify as employment for immigration purposes. You must be formally hired by the company or organization at which you are placed and that company or organization is responsible for assisting you in filling out the Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.
Unpaid Employment You may serve as volunteer, unpaid intern, researcher, community service worker, etc., so long as the activity does not violate any U.S. Labor Laws. If you have been authorized for Standard Post-Completion OPT, you must be able to provide evidence from the organization that you performed services for at least 20 hours per week. You may serve as volunteer, unpaid intern, researcher, community service worker, etc., so long as the activity does not violate any U.S. Labor Laws and is completed incidental to your current F-1 Status. That means, unpaid employment does not count as employment for immigration purposes and you must have a paid job that satisfies the above requirements in order to maintain F-1 Status.