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2017 OPT Tutorial part 2: Maintaining Status on OPT

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Kim Bryant

on 23 October 2017

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Transcript of 2017 OPT Tutorial part 2: Maintaining Status on OPT

Unexpired passport
Valid F-1 visa
I-20 with OPT recommendation and travel signature on second page.
Please note: while on OPT, travel signatures are only valid for 6 months.
Unexpired EAD card.
Your EAD card says “Not valid for re-entry to U.S.” This simply means that your EAD card is not your re-entry document; your visa is.
Job offer letter or letter from your employer stating that you will resume employment upon return to the U.S.
Proof of funds to support yourself, if you are volunteering or not earning enough money from your job to fully support yourself.
When choosing an OPT start date, be realistic about your current job prospects. Where are you in your job search? Do you currently have a job offer? Are you unsure of exactly what you want to do after graduation? Be honest with yourself.
If you are having trouble finding a paid position, look for volunteer positions that might qualify as OPT employment.
If you have a job on OPT that you feel might not work out, don’t wait until the job ends before you start looking for something else. Spend time researching other opportunities and try to formulate a plan before the job ends.
Check out the CCA Career Development Office’s resources on job search strategies, networking tips and techniques, and employers who hire international students.
Art students often have non-traditional OPT employment. If asked by USCIS, it is YOUR responsibility to prove you are maintaining status by working while on OPT. Because of this, it is very important to keep good records of your employment. You should always keep detailed records of your employment and ask that your employer do the same, if possible.

Create a log and keep detailed records of the following information:
The start and end dates of your employment
Your work schedule and the number of hours worked per week
The nature of the work performed
The job title and description for your position, including how it relates to your degree
Name and address of employer, including supervisor’s contact information
Copies of any contracts or other documents to show that you did contract or free-lance work
Your compensation, if any

Common types of documents that help establish these things are an offer letter, timesheets, paystubs, printout of a job posting from a website, and the business card of your employer.

This is especially important if you are doing free-lance jobs and/or volunteering.
While you were completing your degree, you maintained F-1 status by studying full-time. During OPT, you maintain status by working at least 20 hours per week at jobs that meet certain criteria.

There are three main components to maintaining status on OPT:

Find and keep a job (or jobs) that meet the criteria for OPT employment.
Don’t accrue more than 90 days of unemployment
Report certain information to ISAP while you’re on OPT.

In the following slides, we will go over each of these components in detail…
If, during the time you are on OPT, you have questions or need assistance with matters relating to your OPT or F-1 status, please contact ISAP at isap@cca.edu.
Travel While on OPT
Can I travel while on OPT?
1. Find a job that qualifies as OPT employment
All jobs/employment must meet the following criteria:

The position must be related to your field of study. The purpose of OPT is to allow you to apply what you learned in school and gain practical experience in your field of study.
You must work a total of at least 20 hours per week. If you have more than one job, the total hours of all of your jobs should be at least 20 hours per week.
If your schedule is irregular, then your hours over a month must equal at least 20 hours per week.

The type of employment situation is fairly flexible. As long as it is related to your field of study and you’re working at least 20 hours per week, a job may be:

Paid employment - including normal part or full-time work, contact work, or employment through an agency.
Unpaid employment or volunteering - as long as it complies with all labor laws.
Self-employment - you can start a business or work for yourself, but you must be able to prove it’s a real business and you have all applicable business licenses.
Freelance or contract work - be sure to keep records of the hours you work.
Can I travel while on OPT?
ISAP strongly advises avoiding international travel whenever possible until OPT has been approved and you have found a job.

In general, a student on post-completion OPT with a valid EAD card and F-1 visa who is otherwise admissible may re-enter the U.S. to resume employment after a temporary (less than 5 month) absence.

If your visa has expired and you need to travel internationally during OPT, you will be required to apply for a new F-1 visa while outside the U.S. Visas can’t be renewed from inside the U.S. Please contact ISAP to discuss your situation and the risks involved in applying for a new visa.

Do NOT re-enter the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visa or through the visa waiver program while waiting for OPT to be approved or because you have an expired visa. Doing this will automatically end your F-1 status and you will forfeit the chance to do OPT. ISAP cannot change or correct this.
3. Report certain information to ISAP while on OPT
Presented by:
International Student Affairs & Programs

OPT Tutorial Part II

Maintaining Status on OPT

Pierre graduated from CCA in May of 2017 with a BFA in Graphic Design and requested an OPT start date of July 1, 2017. This makes his end date June 30, 2018. His OPT is approved, he receives his EAD card, and he continues looking for a job…
Because Pierre is taking vacation approved by his employer and is returning to continue working, the 7 days he takes off do not count towards his unemployment total. He still has

days of unemployment and is in status.
Pierre’s job is working out well. In May, he asks his boss if he can take a week off to go to France to visit his family. His boss says yes, so Pierre goes on vacation for 7 days.
Pierre has

days of unemployment so far. He’s still in status because he has less than 90 days total of unemployment…
Yay! Pierre finds a contract job doing graphic design that’s expected to last about 4 months and he starts his new job on August 10, 2017. He is very excited, but remembers to check how many days of unemployment he has accrued so far, because he knows it’s important to keep track of it.
2. Don’t accrue more than 90 days of unemployment
If you accrue more than 90 days of unemployment while on OPT, you could be considered out of status.
How do you count days of unemployment?

Once your OPT start date has passed, each day that you aren’t employed, including weekends and holidays, counts as a day of unemployment.
If you have a job and take time off with your employer’s permission, it does NOT count as unemployment. Once you have a job, you stop accruing days of unemployment as long as you are employed.
Who is responsible for tracking days of unemployment?
You are!

Maintaining your F-1 status is your responsibility and part of that is keeping track of when you start and stop jobs, and knowing how many days of unemployment you have accrued.
He has accrued another
days. He adds that to his previous days:
40 + 41 = 81
days TOTAL of unemployment that he has accrued. It’s less than 90, so he’s still in status, but he has to be careful for the rest of his time on OPT…
The contract is over on December 10, 2017 and Pierre starts looking for another job. He finds a job at another graphic design firm and will start working there on January 20, 2018. Pierre counts the additional days of unemployment he accrued while looking for his second job.
OPT start date. Unemployment starts accruing on this day.
Start date of employment. Unemployment stops accruing.
Tips to help avoid too much unemployment:
During OPT, you need to carry the following documents with you when re-entering the U.S.
Thank you for completing the OPT Tutorial!
How do I maintain status on OPT?

You must report:
Initial employment and any subsequent changes in employment
Departure from the U.S. before the end of OPT (If you decide not to use your OPT or to end it early)
Change in immigration status (including the filing of an H1-B petition, an application for permanent residency, or any other change in immigration status)
Legal name changes (due to marriage, divorce, etc…)
Because you are still in F-1 status while on OPT, it is very important that you report certain information to ISAP in a timely manner. Failure to do so could make it appear that you have accrued too much unemployment and so have violated your status.

Changes to any or all of the information below must be reported to ISAP, within 10 days of the change, by filling out the OPT Employment Update form. This form is in the 'F-1 Student' section of the ISAP website, at the bottom of the page (see below).
Let's look at an example...
Keep Records of All Your OPT Employment
Tips for keeping records of your employment
When keeping track of your hours, include time spent in the studio working on pieces, meeting with clients, preparing for a gallery show, traveling to a film shoot, etc... Document ALL the time you spend in relation to your career each week.
Keep copies of any documents related to each project (e.g. emails, offer letters, request for a commissioned piece or project, contracts, tax documents, etc...)
Request a letter from each project or employer, even if it's volunteer, that confirms the details of the project (i.e. the scope of work performed, the dates between which you are expected to be working on it, and the expected number of hours).
Documentation from an employer is best, if available, but your documentation is better than not having anything.
Fill out the OPT Employment Update Form for EACH job you have, even if they are small jobs. ISAP will record each job in SEVIS. Fill out this form as many times as you need to!
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