Types of Employment allowed for Regular OPT

The optional practical training (OPT) is important to undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status that are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work on a student visa in their field of studies. F-1 students are usually permitted a total of 12 months of practical training, and some students with master degrees have 29 months of OPT.

But what types of employment are allowed for regular OPT? All the OPT jobs, including post-completion OPT, must be in a job that is related to the student’s degree program. This post will lists allowed employment categories for students who are not on a 17-month extension, this employment may include:

  • Multiple employers. A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student’s degree program and, for pre-completion OPT, can not exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours.
  • Short-term multiple employers (performing artists). A student, such as a musician or other type of performing artist, 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. If requested by DHS, the student must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract period and the name and address of the contracting company.
  • Self-employed business owner. A student on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student’s degree program.
  • Employment through an agency or consulting firm. A student on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing he or she worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
  • Paid employment. A student may work part time (at least 20 hours per week when on post-completion OPT) or full time.
  • Unpaid employment. A student may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for a student on post-completion OPT. A student must be able to provide evidence acquired from the student’s employer to verify that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.
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