Do’s and Don’ts for OPT Students to maintain Immigration Status

Optional Practical Training is a program initiated by USCIS that allows international students on F-1 visa to work in the United States during or after the completion of their degree for a period of 12 months.  There are various do’s and don’ts for OPT students which they ought to follow to maintain their immigration status. We in this blog are listing all set of rules which OPT students must follow rigorously.

Procedure to apply for OPT

General guidelines for OPT Students

Once you receive your OPT status, see the start date listed on your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). If you didn’t receive your EAD after 75 days of applying for OPT, consider connecting with USCIS and request to expedite your case. Under the OPT status you will need to strictly comply with the 90 days unemployment provision which means that if you fail to find a job within 90 days of the start of your OPT, you will have to prepare for the departure from U.S or apply for the change of status.

Below are the guidelines for OPT students:

  • When you are on OPT status, you have to ensure that each job you take is related to your field of study. If your job title doesn’t match your degree, then you will need a letter from a supervision on letterhead that outlines your work and explains how it is related to your job.
  • You must work a minimum of 20 hours per week while school is in session and 40 hours per week during post-completion OPT.
  • Report all the periods of unemployment, employment, or changes in job to your DSO within 10 days of such change.
  • Do not exceed 90 days of unemployment.

If you want to apply for STEM OPT Extensions, follow the timeline given below:

STEM OPT Extension

STEM OPT Extension helps students to gain an additional 24 months of work experience, resulting in the total OPT duration of 36 months in the U.S. Students can avail the benefits of STEM Extension, only if they meet the following conditions:

  • The student is on a valid post-completion OPT period and has maintained a valid F-1 status;
  • Have earned a bachelor’s, master’s or PhD degree in an eligible STEM field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics from a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school;
  • The student is employed for at least 20 hours/week in a paid job which is directly related to his/her field of study; and
  • He/she is working for an employer that is enrolled in the government’s E-Verify employment verification program;
  • Have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment during his/her post-completion OPT period and will not exceed that limit before the start date of STEM OPT Extension.

The students who receive STEM OPT Extension are allowed to have an additional 60 days of unemployment for a total of 150 days over the entire period of their post-completion OPT.

Total OPT Duration

How to apply for STEM OPT Extension?

To apply for the STEM OPT Extension, you need to file the following documents:

  • Form I-983 (Training Plan for STEM Students)- Before applying to USCIS, students along with their employer must download, complete, sign, & submit the Form I-983 to the student’s Designated School Officials.
  • Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization)- Submit Form I-765 with the prescribed application fee, your employer’s name, Company Identification Number or Client Company Identification Number as listed in E-Verify.
  • Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status)- Submit Form I-20, as endorsed by your DSO within the last 60 days.
  • Lastly, provide a copy of your STEM degree.

Do’s for OPT Students

Here are the essential measures every OPT student should take to maintain his/her immigration status:

  • Update your employment history & report the changes in employment like acceptance of a new job offer to ISS within 10 days, during your STEM OPT Extension. 
  • In case you switch your job during STEM OPT Extension or you are employed by more employers, then each employer needs to complete and submit a new Form I-983.
  • Work for at least 20 hours per week in a job or jobs which are directly related to your field of study. Also, ensure that each employer you work for is E-verified.
  • It is your duty to prove how your employment is directly related to your degree.
  • Use your OPT period to find an employer who is willing to sponsor you for an H-1B visa or some other visa. 
  • Become technically proficient and harness a plenty of job opportunities in order to avoid running out of the permitted unemployment period.
Tech Industry sponsor more H1-B Visa

Don’ts for OPT Students

Here are few things which you should avoid doing on OPT:

  • Do not exceed the allotted 150 days of unemployment time during the entire 36 months of OPT period. If you travel outside the United States during STEM extension, it will be counted as unemployment, unless the travel was during an official leave from your job or it was work-related.
  • Don’t work for an employer without informing your school during Pre-completion OPT.
  • Never work in an off-campus job while on OPT.
  • Never work in a position which is not directly related to your field of studies.
  • Do not work for an employer who is not E-Verified while you are working on your OPT STEM Extension.

Tips to avoid going out of OPT Status

Now you must have understood that the most essential factor in maintaining your OPT & OPT STEM Extension is to remain employed. Students often finds it difficult to sustain a steady position in the market and they keep going out for the interviews without preparation. This can lead to a problem as many companies uses an application tracking software, so they can easily monitor your previous activities and can keep a count on the number of times your application has been rejected & will avoid hiring you. Thus, ultimately your application will get blacklisted and you will end up losing your OPT status.

Several degree holders are being rejected by the companies due to the lack necessary tech skills, knowledge, and real-time practical experience. So, what steps you can take to prevent slipping into such a situation? Here are some tips that can help you in getting a stable job:

  • Get the right kind of technical training before going for any interview– Companies are looking for skilled candidates who have real-world experience in the latest technologies. So, you should take proper training before appearing for an interview.
  • Take assistance from a trusted staffing consultancy- Reach out to an experienced consultancy with a good marketing team that can help you prepare well for the interviews.
  • Acquire tech skills- In order to stand out and survive in the cutting-throat competition, you need to accommodate with the market trends. When you learn the in-demand technologies like, Java, Python, AWS, MERN Stack, Machine Learning, and Hadoop, you will increase your scope of getting a high-paying job.


The students have to go through a lengthy procedure for getting an OPT status, but the real challenge is to maintain that status by following the do’s and don’ts prescribed by USCIS. A crucial factor in maintaining the OPT status is to keep yourself employed. One can certainly achieve a stable employment level by acquiring the skills which are in demand.

You can unlock a variety of career-advancement opportunities by learning the advanced technologies. Since the technical sphere is flooded with jobs, you will never go short on employment options, thus remain employed and shall be able to maintain your OPT status. A reliable option for you could be enrolling in our technology upskill problem, we train various OPT students in the robust technologies and also provide them job assistance.  Let’s help you achieve your career goals. SynergisticIT- The Best Programmers in the Bay area…Period!