Beginning April 8, 2008 there are new immigration regulations regarding Optional Practical Training (OPT). Students are now required to report information regarding their employment to the SEVP (Student Exchange Visitor Program) through their Designated School Official (DSO) at their university’s International Office to maintain F-1 status.
In addition, regulations now limit the time of unemployment a student can accrue during OPT to a maximum of 90 days. If a student is not employed 90 days after the start date of the EAD card, the student is considered out of status.
Unemployment is described as time spent without a qualifying job during OPT and each day that the student is not employed is counted toward the limit on unemployment time. The limit is 90 days for students on post-completion OPT. The only exception is that periods of up to 10 days between the end of one job and the beginning of the next job will not be included in the calculation for time spent unemployed.
If a student is not able to secure a paid job or internship and is coming to the 90 days of unemployment limit he/she may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern, where this does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT and students must be able to provide evidence from the employer that they worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of unpaid employment.
Although schools are not required to alert the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) if a student has exceeded the 90 days of unemployment, the student should be aware that he/she may be denied future immigration benefits that rely on valid F-1 status if DHS determines that the student exceeded the limitations on unemployment.