How Can You Keep Your OPT Status if you Do Not Have a Job Yet
May 12th, 2020
Normally, this time of year is one full of excitement for students reaching the end of their academic career. Graduation ceremonies, graduation parties, and for some, a summer break, all bring families and friends together to celebrate their loved ones’ accomplishments. This year, ceremonies, parties, and the summer are looking different due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, which can be a source of concern and anxiety. This is especially true for individuals who have F-1 status (for Student Visas), whose livelihood as well as their ability to remain in the United States, is vulnerable to economic crises.
When a student with F-1 status graduates from their academic program, they may be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training, or OPT. Depending on their academic field, the period of OPT can last up to three (3) years (for some with STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics degrees). In order to maintain their lawful status during their OPT period, the student must be employed and their position must be related to their field of study. With the COVID-19 crisis, many employers are unable to have OPT students start working for them, or in some instances, if the OPT student has been working for an employer, the employer is not able to maintain that employment. Both situations create an issue for OPT students as the immigration regulations do not allow an OPT student to be without employment for more than 90 days. (See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(10)(E))
The question then becomes: can the student do anything to keep their OPT status lawfully? Fortunately, the answer is likely yes for many F-1 students. For example the following are two options that may maintain OPT status:
- A student can harness their entrepreneurial spirit and become self-employed by creating a business or by offering services related to their course of study; or
- A student can work as an unpaid intern in an area related to their course of study.These OPT options can be either full or part time and the work may be performed for more than one employer or entities.
At FitzGerald Law Company, we know how hard F-1 students work as they balance not only their academic workload, but also living in a new country, often on their own. After working so hard and completing their studies, it is important to keep in mind that opportunities for OPT will not necessary disappear due to the COVID-19 crisis. Once the global economy begins its recovery, everyone will play an important role in its success, including F-1 students, and OPT will become again a great avenue for an employment based green card.
If you or a family member need help maintaining legal immigration status in the United States or applying for an immigration benefit, call our office to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced immigration lawyers in Boston at (617) 303-2600 or request an appointment online.
Please forward this newsletter to anyone you think will benefit from this information.
Desmond P. FitzGerald &
The FitzGerald Law Company Team