- Can I apply for OPT if I'm out of the US?
Students must apply for OPT while they are in the US. If you have already departed the US, and you will not return before the end of your degree program, you are no longer eligible to apply for OPT.
- I'm done with all my classes, but I don’t want to apply for OPT right now because there aren't any jobs. Can I take more classes to delay OPT?
No, you are not eligible to extend your academic program unless there is an academic need. Any extension must be documented and approved by your academic advisor and/or the graduate school. If you do not need any other classes, you are not eligible to continue studying and you must apply for OPT, start a new degree program, or make plans to leave the US.
- Can I apply for economic hardship and work that way? Do I need to apply for OPT?
Economic hardship is an application that is sent to USCIS and is reserved for current students to receive work authorization. It can take more than 5 months to get an answer regarding economic hardship applications, and once you graduate you are no longer eligible. In order to be granted work authorization after you graduate, you must apply for OPT.
- I've already applied for OPT. What should I do if I want to start a new degree program?
If you have already applied for OPT, you are still eligible to start a new degree program. However, once you begin your new degree program, your OPT authorization period automatically ends and you lose any unused portion of that OPT period. You will not be able to “get back” any of the time unused.
- Can I withdraw my OPT application and start a new degree program?
Yes, if your OPT application has not yet been approved, you can withdraw your application. However, please be aware that withdrawals are not always successful. In addition, you cannot “go back” and apply for OPT from a lower degree level if you decide to pursue another degree level now. For example, if you’ve finished your bachelor's degree and you enroll in a master's program, you are no longer eligible for OPT at the bachelor's level.
- I've submitted my application for OPT to USCIS, can I change the dates that I put on my application so that I can have more time?
No, OPT start dates must be within 60 days of your last day of classes. If you have already submitted your application to USCIS, there is no way to update that and your OPT application will be reviewed with the dates that you submitted on your application.
- I'm on OPT now. What do I need to report if I am furloughed or laid off?
It is between you and your employer to determine the status of employment and whether it should be reported to a DSO. You will need to work with your employer to determine whether the furloughed time is considered “unemployment” or “approved time off.” Unemployment must be reported to UNT ISSS, who will update your SEVIS record. Approved time off, such as sick and vacation time, is not reported to UNT ISSS and does not result in an update to your SEVIS record. Regardless of whether you report the furlough as unemployment, or consider it approved leave, we recommend that you keep documentation of your furlough period for your personal records. Questions about your employment status should always be directed to the human resources department at your employer. Read about OPT reporting requirements. Changes in OPT employment can be reported in iNorthTX.
- I'm on OPT now. My hours have been reduced to less than 20 hours a week. What should I do?
We have received guidance from SEVP that students who are working, even at less than 20 hours per week, are still considered to be engaged in their OPT authorization. You do not need to take any additional action at this time.
- I'm on STEM OPT now and have been moved to working from home. Do I need to update my I-983 with my home address?
No. We have received guidance from SEVP that STEM OPT students do not need to update their I-983 to reflect their change in work location while working remotely.
- Can I file for Unemployment Insurance benefits?
Unemployment insurance is generally reserved for immigrants and immigrant visa types. However you may qualify based on your F-1 work eligibility.You will need to verify your eligibility with your state's unemployment office. Please be aware, by filing for and receiving unemployment funds, you could be deemed a public charge. If you are determined to be a "public charge" for up to 12 months in any 3-year period, this could result in future immigration benefits denial (such as a new visa or adjustment of status to permanent residency.) Recently, USCIS updated their public charge language with respect to COVID-19. As a result, if you wish to apply for unemployment benefits, we would highly advise that you first speak with an immigration attorney to go over all the pros and cons of using (or even applying for) these types of benefits. It is important to know that even applying, whether or not the benefit is granted, can cause issues down the road. If after speaking with an attorney, you decide to apply, please make sure to keep a print out of USCIS's page in your permanent records, as the website language is likely to change over time.
- Can I still file for an OPT STEM extension if I'm unemployed?
In order to apply for a STEM OPT extension period, you must be employed by or have an employment offer from a STEM eligible employer. The employer must be E-Verified, and you must submit your application prior to the expiration date on your OPT EAD card. Read more about STEM OPT.
- What happens if I am nearing the limit for my days of unemployment (90 days for 12 month OPT/additional 60 days for STEM OPT that toals 150 days)?
SEVP has begun auto-terminating the records of individuals who have reached their limit of unemployment days. If you know you will be unemployed for more than 90 or 150 days, we recommend making plans to begin a new degree program, file for a change of status, or prepare to depart the United States.