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How to change jobs on your F-1 OPT visa

Prodigy Finance - July 10, 2019

How to change jobs on your F-1 OPT visa

One of the great things about working on the OPT extension of your F-1 visa is that it’s not employer-dependent. You’re free to make a change to a new employer if you want. All you need to do is:

  1. Secure a new job offer.
  2. Report the change to your university.
  3. Keep all your employment documents.

As with all things immigration, there’s still stuff you need to do to make sure you’re on the right side of the law.

Here’s what you need to know:

What to do when changing jobs on your OPT

Whenever your employment status changes while working on your OPT, the most important thing you need to do is to report these changes to your school as soon as possible. This applies whether you take a job with a different company or you accept a new position with your current employer.

Any and every change must be reported while working on the OPT extension of the F-1 visa. 

As the OPT must be linked to your education, your school remains at the heart of this visa class. They'll need to be informed of and then report any changes you make while working on your OPT.

Got a new job? 

Make sure to report it to your school within 10 days of making any changes so DHS never needs to question your status. 

Found a new place to live? 

Your school needs that information within 10 days as well. 

While you may only need minimal information for reporting at this stage, it’s critical that you keep all records pertaining to each job (even your previous OPT employment) as you may need to show proof of employment (and that it was related to your field of study) for future visa applications and processing.

In general, you’ll need an employment letter or contract proving:

  • your position and job title
  • the duration you held that position
  • description of your work and responsibilities
  • contact information for your supervisor

TIP: If your employment contract doesn’t specifically outline each of the above, request an additional letter from your supervisor or the HR department (on company letterhead) that covers each point. And, be prepared to clearly explain how your employment relates to your field of study. 

Believe it or not, that’s more or less all you need to do to maintain legal status when changing jobs on your OPT.

Changing jobs on the OPT? Time to think about your student loan

Although there are any number of reasons you might change jobs while on the OPT, one of them is surely the pay check that comes with your new position. 

If you’re earning more, now’s a great time to pay a little more towards your international student loan. These extra payments will:

  • Reduce the amount of interest you pay and, therefore, the total cost of your loan.
  • Help you to repay your student loan faster.

If you’re serious about reducing the cost of your international student loan, or your lender doesn’t accommodate early repayment, it’s time to think about refinancing your loan.

What if you accept a new job, but still work at your previous position?

One critical aspect of the post-completion OPT is that there’s no cap on the total number of hours you work. (There are definitely emotional and physical caps, but those are personal.)

So, you can have multiple jobs while working on your OPT. But you and your employer need to meet the following criteria:

  • Each job you have must relate to your field of study. And, if your job title doesn’t make it clear that your degree enabled you to take this position, you’ll need a letter from a supervision on letterhead which outlines your work (and how it relates).
  • You must work a minimum of 20 hours per week at each job you have.
  • All employment (and periods of unemployment) must be reported to your school.
  • If you’re working on the STEM extension of OPT, you must be paid at fair rates for your work. (You can accept unpaid or volunteer work while on the standard OPT, as long as it meets all other criteria - including the relation to your field of study, but not while using the additional 24 months of the STEM extension.)

What if you lose your job while on OPT?

Again, the most important thing is to report this change to your school. While on the initial 12 months (or whatever time you were granted) of the OPT, you may be unemployed for a maximum of 90 days (including weekends).

Once you reach a total of 90 days, you also forfeit the 60-day grace period to leave the US given to those who successfully complete their OPT work period. In other words, you’ll need to leave the country before those 90 days are up.

Keep in mind that you’ll also need to report this information to your school. Leaving without reporting your exit might preclude you from securing visas to the US in the future, should the opportunity ever arise for you to do so.

Above all, it’s critical to report changes to the international office at your school as quickly as you can. And, if you have any questions regarding your OPT visa or what should be reported, be sure to get in touch with your university, even if you consult with an immigration lawyer or the international HR specialists in your office. 

Want to sort out your international student loan while working on your F-1 OPT?

Refinancing help you build credit in the US - and it can also save you thousands (or even tens of thousands) of dollars on the total cost of your loan. Applying is simple, fast and you’ll see how much you can save instantly after completing the Prodigy Finance obligation-free application. 

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