Employment Issues

Students can work for two employers at the same time while on OPT, but cannot exceed 40 hours per week.

  1. What qualifies as OPT employment for the 12-month EAD card?
    1. OPT employment must be in a job that is:
      1. Related to the student’s degree major.
      2. Appropriate to the student's degree level.
      3. On average at least 20 hours per week.
      4. Either paid or unpaid, see below
      5. Eligible employment includes:
        • Paid employment.
          • Multiple employers – Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student’s degree program. However, students cannot work more than 1 full-time job.
          • Short-term multiple employers (performing artists) – Students, such as musicians and other performing artists may work for multiple short-term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates, and duration.
          • Work for hire –This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship.
          • Self-employed business owner – Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must work full-time. The student must be able to prove that to DHS that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student’s degree program. OIS cannot advise you on how to start a business.
          • Employment through an employment agency
        • Unpaid employment – Students may work as volunteers or unpaid internships, where this does not violate any U.S. labor laws.
  2. How quickly do I have to find a job?
    1. You are limited to no more than a 90-day unemployment aggregate total for the entire 12 months of your EAD card.
    2. The 90-day “clock” begins the day your EAD card activates and OPT authorization expires on the 91st day of unemployment.
    3. Please note that this 90-day unemployment cap in no way is connected to the 60-day sliding window to choose your OPT start date or the 60-day grace period at the END of your 12 month OPT.
    4. You must report OPT Employment Information or that you are Actively Seeking Employment (ASE) as soon as possible to OIS to prevent the canceling of your OPT by USCIS: 
    5. At this time OIS strongly recommends students find and keep detailed records of any employment obtained, whether paid or unpaid.
      Once you reach the 90th day of aggregate total unemployment for the 12-month OPT card, you should be departing the US, changing to another visa category or starting a new degree program. There is NO grace period once you reach the 91st day. OPT status is contingent on maintaining active OPT employment, whether paid or unpaid (see above). This 90-day “clock” begins the day the EAD card activates.
  3. Social Security Information
    1. You are able to obtain a social security number (SSN) once you receive the EAD card even if you do not have a job offer. Please check the OIS website for further information.