In applying for OPT students acknowledge the following responsibilities for maintaining lawful immigration status during OPT:
1. Role of Emerson College Office of International Student Affairs (OISA)
During my OPT, Emerson will continue to serve as the immigration sponsor for my F-1 status, responsible for continued updates to my immigration record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
In order to ensure that my SEVIS record remains up-to-date, it is my responsibility to inform OISA of any updates I receive from USCIS (approval, denial, request for evidence), and to meet my OPT reporting requirements including updates to my residential address and OPT employment.
2. Application Window for Filing OPT application
My OPT application must be filed (received by USCIS) during a specific timeframe. If my application is received before or after this window, my application will likely be denied. My complete application must be filed:
- No later than 30 days after the I-20 with OPT recommendation is issued to me by OISA
- No sooner than 90 days prior to my program completion date
- No later than 60 days after my program end date (Note: Filing an application after my program end date – while permitted – is not recommended as I will likely lose OPT eligibility time due to the months it will take for USCIS adjudication)
3. Requirement to Finish by Program Completion Date
My eligibility for post-completion OPT is recommended based on a specific program completion date, as follows:
- Spring semester as final semester, with no summer classes – May commencement date
- Summer as final semester – August 30
- Fall as final semester – December 30
If I do not complete my program of study on the date expected, this may affect my eligibility for OPT. If additional time is needed to complete my program, I must request a timely extension of my I-20. Failure to request an extension of my I-20 prior to its expiration may lead to termination of my F-1 status and loss of OPT. If I fail to complete my degree and my OPT has already been approved, it may not be possible to change the dates of my authorization and I may be ineligible to use part of all of this OPT authorization.
4. OPT Recommended and OPT Approved Dates
An OISA advisor will recommend OPT employment dates based on my request. Once my application is submitted to USCIS, the recommended dates cannot be changed. However, USCIS may modify the dates of my approved OPT.
I may not begin work until I have my approved EAD in hand and may only work within the OPT dates approved. Starting work before my OPT start date or working after my OPT end date is a serious violation of status.
5. Parameters of OPT Employment
My OPT authorization allows me to remain in the U.S. to gain valuable U.S. work experience or training under the following conditions:
Major-related: All OPT employment must be directly related to my major field of study and commensurate with my degree of education.
Flexible/Multiple employers: My post-completion OPT authorization allows me to work for one employer or multiple employers, engage in paid or unpaid training, work for hire (as a 1099 independent contractor), work through an employment agency, or as a self-employed business owner.
- I may serve as a volunteer, unpaid intern, researcher, community service worker, etc., where this does not violate any labor laws. Note: OISA would advise that you obtain evidence from your volunteer organization that you performed services at least 20 hours per week.
- I may start a business and be self-employed. Note: SEVP Guidance indicates that you must be able to prove that you have the proper business licenses and that you are actively engaged in a business related to your degree program.
Full-time employment: I must work at least 20 hours per week (cumulative between all jobs). SEVP has modified this 20-hour requirement temporarily through the end of the 2022-2023 school year, allowing fewer than 20 hours per week to be counted as active OPT “for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.”
Permitted Unemployment: I am allowed no more than 90 days of unemployment (cumulative) during my 12 months of OPT. This means I must begin working no more than 90 days after the beginning of the OPT start date on my EAD. My total time of unemployment – including finding a job plus any subsequent gaps in employment – cannot exceed 90 days.
6. Reporting Responsibilities
During my OPT, I am responsible to keep my SEVIS record and OISA records up-to-date by reporting the following:
- Report EAD approval to OISA: I must provide a copy of my Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to OISA by oisa [at] emerson.edu (email)title="Email OISA".
- Reporting residential address: I am responsible to report any change in my U.S. residential address within 10 days of a move, by reporting my new address through the SEVP Portal.
- Reporting OPT employment: For each OPT employer, I am responsible to update details of my OPT employment through the SEVP Portal, including (1) name of employer, (2) address of employer, (3) start date of employment, and (4) how my employment is directly related to my major field of study.
- End of OPT employment: If I end employment for an OPT employer, I must reflect this change by entering an employer end date through the SEVP Portal. If I depart the U.S. with the intent to end my OPT, I must inform OISA by oisa [at] emerson.edu (email)title="Email OISA".
- so my F-1 status can be correctly completed.
- Change of immigration status: If I enter the U.S. in another status or am approved for a new immigration status, I must inform OISA by oisa [at] emerson.edu (email)title="Email OISA".
Reporting through the SEVIS Portal
Once I am approved for F-1 OPT, I should expect to receive a direct email from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) with an invitation to enroll in the SEVP Portal. The SEVP Portal allows students on OPT to self-report information to meet the required OPT reporting requirements. This email should be sent to the email address reflected in your SEVIS record (usually your Emerson email).
See information about the SEVP Portal.
7. Travel outside the U.S.
If I travel outside of the U.S. after my program completion date, I may be readmitted to the U.S. resume OPT employment provided I present these documents. Without these documents, I could be prohibited from re-entering the U.S. in F-1 status:
- Valid passport
- F-1 visa in my passport that will be valid on the day I plan to return to the U.S. If I do not have a valid visa for my return, I must make an appointment to renew my visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy while I am outside the U.S.
- Travel signature on my Form I-20 will be less than six months old on my date of return – Request an updated travel signature here.
- OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) – also referred to as my “OPT card”
- Proof of OPT Employment, such as a letter from my employer to show that I am returning to a job in the U.S. or that I will begin a job/training upon my return.
8. Ending OPT
My OPT will be cancelled or invalidated if I:
- Enter the U.S. in another immigration status or change immigration status in the U.S.
- Begin a new program of study or transfer my SEVIS record to another school
- Engage in unauthorized employment
- Otherwise violate my F-1 immigration status
Sixty-day “grace” period after OPT
I am permitted to say in the U.S. for up to 60 days after the end of my OPT. I may not continue to work during this time, unless I qualify for “cap-gap” extension (see below). During this 60-day grace period I can transfer my SEVIS record to another school, apply for change of immigration status, change level to begin a new program of study, or to depart the U.S. Once I depart the U.S. during my grace period, I can no longer return in F-1 status unless I have a new I-20 to continue on to a new program of study.
If, during my OPT, my employer files a timely-filed petition to change my status to H-1B to begin on October 1st, I may be eligible for an extension of my F-1 status (and OPT work permission, if applicable) through October 1st. I will need to provide OISA with a copy of my USCIS receipt or approval notice to request a “Cap-Gap” I-20. Cap-gap extensions for shorter date ranges may be available if I have an H-1B petition that was filed (but not receipted) or waitlisted by USCIS.
Eligibility for Future Periods of OPT
I may become eligible for an additional 12-month period of OPT if I move on to a higher level of education in the U.S. (for instance, from a bachelor’s to a master’s level).
If my degree program is an eligible major in a field of Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM), I may qualify for a 24-month extension of OPT. Communication-related STEM fields include some degrees in Digital Communication and Media/Multimedia, as well as Animation, Interactive Technologies, Video Graphics and Special Effects. I may also qualify for a STEM OPT Extension after an Emerson degree if I completed a prior degree in a STEM-eligible field, if that degree was completed within the past 10 years, at an accredited, SEVIS-certified college in the U.S.
9. Violations of F-1 Status
I am responsible for knowing the limits of my OPT work authorization and working within these limits. Violations of F-1 status may lead to termination of my SEVIS record and may have immediate and long-term immigration consequences. Violations of status may include: working outside of the OPT work dates or work restrictions, failure to meet SEVIS reporting requirements, accruing more than 90 days of unemployment, or remaining in the U.S. beyond the date of your I-20, active OPT, and grace period.