What should I do if I’m unemployed during OPT?

OPT (Optional Practical Training) is a type of permission to work for F1 students after the completion of their academic program. Students can use this period of time to work or actively seek employment. There are only 90 days allowed for students to be unemployed (additional 60 days for STEM), including the situations where the student quits the job and is unable to find a job. The 90 days (or 150 days for STEM) are cumulative and including the time when the jobs are fewer than 20 hours per week.

Due to Covid-19 pandemic, many students have a hard time finding a job or keeping a job. Therefore, many students who are currently on OPT status are facing the possibility of accruing days of unlawful presence. The consequences for unlawful presence can be very serious depending on the length. OPT students should think about their situations practically and plan wisely once they lost their jobs or did secure a job after OPT status started.

The best situation is to find a job before the status expires. Students should seek jobs actively and practically. As long as the job is related to the major, unpaid and part-time (at least 20 hours per week) jobs are allowed for first-year OPT. OPT students should broaden the types of jobs they seek, including research assistants, volunteers, interns, etc.; as well as types of employers, for examples, universities, non-profit, startup….

Sometimes it can be really hard to find a job, especially under the impact of covid pandemic. If leaving the US is not the plan, OPT students should start to consider adjusting to other status. Depending on the situation, OPT students could consider B1/B2, or F2, J2, H4, L2, O3… or apply for green card. Most unmarried students choose to go back to F1 visa and continue to study.
To sum up, OPT students should be aware of the possibilities of being unemployed and stay away from accruing time of unlawful presence or visa fraud. If you have any concerns or questions, you should talk to your school timely, and consult an experienced immigration lawyer if necessary.

Law Office of Hong-min Jun is a dedicated team of experienced immigration attorneys. In the 17 years of practice, Attorney Hong-min Jun have helped many clients getting green cards. Our team is good at not only preparing immigration forms and supporting evidence, but also finding options and making wise decisions. Please feel free to contact us via email, facebook, our website, or call us!