Why Delay the Start Date if I Don’t Have a Job?
Though this will mean that you have to wait to begin a position if you find one earlier than the end of your 60-day grace period, this will allow us to delay the start of the unemployment provision count and buy you the extra time needed to find an OPT-approvable position.
Important Clarification: In light of the above provisions, there have also been some changes to the types of employment that are now acceptable while on OPT.
For regular post-completion OPT, the employment does NOT have to paid employment. Therefore, a student who is self-employed (including performance majors with regular “gigs”), interning or volunteering in a position directly related to the academic field would be considered “employed” for the purposes of OPT employment. For the 17-month STEM extension (for those who qualify; please see below), employment must be traditional paid employment.
This will be good news for those of you are unable to find traditional paid employment but who are able to find a volunteer or intern position – as it will ensure that the three-month unemployment provision does not affect you as long as you can find a volunteer/intern opportunity (and as long as that opportunity still meets OPT requirements).
There is also a new “self-employed” category, though you should be very careful of using this category as you may be asked to provide verification of such self-employment (please see below for examples of intended use of this category).
Reporting Employment - While on OPT you must report all periods of employment (and all periods of unemployment – remember, you cannot accumulate a total of 90 days of unemployment at any point in your OPT) to the Assistant Director of International Services (your DSO), in addition to reporting all changes in your address. It is VERY important that you remember to do this as USCIS will cancel your OPT after 3 months of unemployment (or unreported employment). Please review the chart below for guidelines on reporting employment to the Assistant Director of International Services.
A new regulation now allows F-1 students who have applied for an H-1B to have his/her F-1 status automatically extended until October 1 of the year in which the student is applying. Duration of status and work authorization will automatically be extended for a student on OPT who is the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition requesting an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. This would apply to all students on OPT, not just STEM students. To obtain the automatic extension, a student must be the beneficiary of an H-1B petition filed for the next fiscal year (with an October 1 employment start date) and have requested a change of status (new step). The extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf.
What Does This Mean
Previously, students who hit the H1B “gap” were required to stop employment and a) return to their home country or b) transfer to another school to maintain their F-1 status until their H1 status began. This new provision allows a student with a pending H1 visa application to remain in the US and continue employment until such time as the H1 is approved and takes effect on October 1st. This, in effect, eliminates the H1 gap problem.
Example: A student’s OPT expires on June 30 and he has filed for H1B for October 1. His duration of status has now automatically been extended until October 1. October 1 is the date that the F-1 will have his F-1 status changed to H-1B. The student will not have to apply for this automatic extension; it will automatically be extended without any fee. The student does not receive a new EAD card but he is eligible to continue working. The status of his wife (F-2 dependent) is also automatically extended without application.
BUT the important thing to note with this regulation is that ”the extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf.”
Example: A student’s OPT expires on June 30 and he has filed for H1B for October 1. It is assumed that by June 1 that any H-1B petitions not selected in that year’s H-1B lottery will be returned in the mail. This student does not receive H-1 approval. In this case, his F-1 OPT status will not be extended until October 1, but instead the OPT will expire, as is indicated on his employment card, on June 30.
Additional Cap Gap Provisions
NOTE: Information and regulatory practices surrounding this provision are still being discussed. Please continue to periodically check this website for additional updates.
Students earning a degree in the following fields/schools ONLY will qualify for the STEM 17-month extension at Claremont Graduate University:
All other degrees (including those in the business, liberal or performing arts, and social studies categories) are not eligible for the STEM 17-month extension as it is currently defined.
Filing for the 17-month STEM Extension
You must file for the STEM Extension before your 12-month OPT expires. You will need to work with the Assistant Director of International Services to request the Extension. Requirements for the 17-month extension include: