Maintaining Your F-1 Status While on OPT and Completion of OPT

While you are on OPT it is important that you are aware of your responsibilities pertaining to your F-1 status, and that you take the necessary steps to maintain that status.  Below you will find important information that will help you comply with the federal regulations that govern the status of those holding OPT, as well as those completing their OPT authorization period.

Reporting Requirements while on Post-Completion OPT

While on OPT, students are responsible for reporting to their International Student Advisor, within 10 days of any change to:

  • Student name
  • Current physical address
  • Name of current employer
  • Address of current employment
  • Start date of current employment
  • Date of any interruption or termination of employment

OPT Employer & Address Update Form for CMC alumni
All other Claremont Colleges alumni must contact their International Student Advisor through e-mail.

Unemployment while on Post-Completion OPT

  • Students on Post-Completion OPT must be employed at least 20 hours per week. Students who are employed for a total of less than 20 hours per week are considered to be “unemployed” for OPT/F-1 status purposes.
  • Students on their initial 12-month period of standard post-completion OPT may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment for the duration of their authorization period.
  • Students who are unemployed for more than 90 days are in violation of their immigration status.

Travel while on OPT

Students on post-completion OPT are permitted to return to the U.S. to resume employment. If you are on OPT and are outside of or plan to leave the U.S., and you do not have a job offer at the time of re-entry, it is possible you will not be permitted to re-enter the U.S. Also, if you have an I-20 with a Cap Gap notation and an expired EAD card, it is possible you will not be permitted to re-enter the U.S. The following are required in order to re-enter the U.S. to resume employment under OPT:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 visa (waived for those exempt from the visa requirement)
  • Your current original I-20 with a valid travel signature (no older than 6 months). If you need a new travel signature, please contact your DSO well in advance of your anticipated travel date
  • Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • Evidence of a job or job offer

You may experience difficulties or may even be denied re-entry if you try to return to the U.S. without any of the above items. It may also be helpful to travel with your documentation of financial support and a copy of your transcript or other academic record.

Completion of OPT and the 60-day Grace Period

Students who reach the end of their OPT authorization period may be eligible for a 60-day “grace period”:

  • F-1 students can remain in the U.S. for the 60-day grace period after the OPT period ends, as long as they have not accrued 90 days of unemployment during the OPT authorization period (dates listed on the EAD card).
  • Employment is not permitted during the 60-day grace period.
  • Upon departure from the U.S., re-entry during the 60-day grace period as an F-1 student is not permissible
  • Students who have accrued a total of 90 days unemployment are not eligible for the 60-day grace period, and must leave the U.S. immediately.

Options For Those Completing OPT

Upon completion of OPT, or at any time during OPT, students may:

  • Transfer their F-1 status to another U.S. institution
    It is important to note that a transfer of F-1 status prior to the OPT end date automatically cancels any remaining OPT authorization time. Students who want to transfer F-1 status at the end of their OPT simply need to contact their DSO (your DSO will need a copy of your notice of admission to the new program and the name and contact information for the international student advisor at the new school.
  • Change to a different immigration status
    Students who have been approved for H-1b status will have their OPT periods automatically extended from the end date on the EAD card through the start of the H-1b on October 1st. Students filing for H1-B status during their OPT periods should become familiar with the guidance on this page.
  • Depart the U.S.
    Departure must be made within 60 days of your EAD end date

Students who graduate with a STEM-eligible major may be eligible to apply for the STEM OPT Extension

Helpful Links

OPT Information Page (for all students planning to apply for OPT) | OPT Application Information | Maintaining Your F-1 Status During OPT
STEM OPT Extension Information Page (for students currently engaged in OPT, only – includes application and other important information)
Form Instructions for I-765
Study in the States: USCIS Explains the Form I-765
USCIS Form Filing Tips
Information on the H-1B “Cap-Gap
Employer Update Form (for CMC alumni)