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How to change jobs on your F-1 OPT visa

Prodigy Finance - October 30, 2019

How to change jobs on your F-1 OPT visa for international graduates in US

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.
Steps to changing you job on an F-1 OPT visa as an international graduate

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
What should be in your employment letter when changing jobs on F-1 OPT visa

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? 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.

Want to save money on your international student 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 the perfect F1 OPT job profile looks like for international graduates in US

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. 

Planning to pursue your master's in the US?

The school and job search might be up to you, but we're ready to help qualified students with loans to pursue their dreams at top universities in the US.

The purpose of this guide is to provide prospective students with an overview of the application process for a US student visa and should not be regarded as legal or immigration advice or as a substitute for the official information published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from time to time or any instructions and/or advice provided by US embassies and consuls. Whilst we have carefully compiled the guide in accordance with the information published by USCIS, Prodigy Finance Limited does not accept liability for any inaccuracies, mistakes, omissions or outdated information in the guide and we encourage prospective students and other readers to consult the USCIS’s website at https://www.uscis.gov. Prodigy Finance Limited is not authorized by the Department of Justice (DOJ)'s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to provide immigration services and will not provide any additional information or assistance to any person to apply for a US student or other category visa.

Post updated for accuracy and freshness on October 30, 2019. Originally published on July 10, 2019.

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