Q: Can I use the OIE address as my mailing address on the I-765?
A: We encourage students to use their personal mailing addresses on the I-765.
Q: If I move while my OPT is pending, how can I update my mailing address with USCIS?
A: Once you have received your receipt number, you can use the USCIS My Case Status website to request your mailing address be updated.
Q: I received notification from USCIS that my EAD card is being processed, but I have yet to receive the EAD card. What can I do?
A. USCIS announced a delay with printing EAD cards on July 21, 2020. The announcement can be found here (https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDHS/bulletins/2969646?reqfrom=share). Students will need to continue working directly with USCIS to receive EAD cards.
Q: Will the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) allow more than 90 day of unemployment and 150 day cumulative total for 24 month STEM Optional Practical Training due to COVID-19?
A: SEVP has not issued any temporary provisions to allow F-1 student visa holders to exceed the current unemployment limits of 90 days for 12 month post-completion OPT or cumulative total of 150 days for the 24 Month STEM Optional Practical Training Extension period. Students are advised to continue to report employment changes via Istart.gatech.edu within 10 days of the change.
Q: If my employer requires me to work remotely for a temporary period, does this constitute a Material Change of Employment which requires me to update OIE via Istart.gatech.edu?
A: A temporary move to a remote environment due to COVID-19 social distancing measures does not constitute a permanent transfer from one location to another and is not considered a material change which requires reporting to OIE and update in SEVIS.
Q: If I leave the U.S. for a temporary period during my 12 month Post-Completion OPT or 24 Month STEM Optional Practical Training and I am unable to return will I accrue unemployment for the time spent outside the U.S.?
A: SEVP policy guidance states, "Time spent outside the United States during an approved period of post-completion OPT counts as unemployment against the 90/150-day limits, unless the student is either:
Employed during a period of leave authorized by an employer; or Traveling as part of his or her employment.”
If you are unable to return to the U.S. and your employer authorizes you to continue your Optional Practical Training while abroad, you are encouraged to request a letter from your employer stating that you are in a period of travel which is part of your OPT employment.
Q: Can I do an internship and/or volunteer work on OPT? If so, will I stop accumulating unemployment days?
A: It is possible for students on OPT to do internships and volunteer work, as long as you are working at least 20 hours per week and all work is directly related to your major. In that case, the work can count as OPT employment and you would not accumulate unemployment days. You want to be sure that any volunteer work is truly volunteer work and that it does not violate US labor laws. For instance, it is not possible to do work that is normally paid on a volunteer/unpaid basis. Doing paid work for free would violate labor laws and not count as OPT employment. Typically, volunteer work should be with a non-profit organization/charity. When doing volunteer work, we recommend that you carefully document the volunteer-nature of the work and the hours worked, in case you ever need evidence of this in the future. Please work with the organization that you volunteer with to determine how to best document this.
Q: Can I volunteer without pay for a GT professor to help avoid accruing unemployment days?
A: It is possible to engage in Optional Practical Training in an unpaid role that is compliant with U.S. laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Georgia Tech does not have a policy that prohibits volunteering, but it is important in order to ensure compliance with U.S. laws and institutional hiring policies. We encourage you to contact Georgia Tech’s Human Resources Service Now to request review and approval of the volunteer appointment prior to engaging in any projects associated with your practical training experience.
Q: Since USCIS is no longer offering in-person services, does that impact OPT processing?
A: No. The USCIS Service Centers are continuing to process OPT requests at this time.
Q: My OPT/STEM OPT is ending and I had planned to return to my home country; however, due to travel restrictions around COVID-19, I am unable to do so. What are my options?
A: Options available for those with upcoming Post-Completion OPT expirations and during your sixty day grace period include the following:
- Transfer your SEVIS record to another U.S. college or university prior to the end of your sixty day grace period, and begin a new course of study.
- Request to begin a new program of study at Georgia Institute of Technology. If you have been admitted to a new program at Georgia Tech, you should submit an update using the iStart e-form entitled “Change of Degree Level” within 10 days of the change and no later than 45 days in to your 60-day grace period.
- Apply for a change of visa status under the guidance of a qualified immigration attorney
- Contact your Embassy to determine if other options might exist for evacuation.
- Consult with a qualified immigration attorney about any challenges you may incur as a result of remaining in the U.S. beyond your grace period.
Q: If I am furloughed, or placed in a period of temporary unpaid leave, while in a period of post-completion OPT, will OIE count this as unemployment time towards the maximum limit?
A: If your employment is not terminated, but rather you are placed in a period of unpaid administrative leave with the expectation that you will return to full time paid employment after the temporary period, you are still maintaining OPT employment. We encourage individuals on Optional Practical Training to consult with a qualified immigration attorney about this question.
Temporary leaves of absence as outlined above do not need to be reported to OIE. However if your employment is terminated by your employer during the furlough/temporary leave period, this must be reported to OIE using the iStart portal. F-1 visa holders participating in 12-month post-completion OPT must complete the OPT Personal Contact/Employment Update and those participating in 24 Month OPT STEM Extensions must complete the Material Change to Employment e-form.
Q: If my employer reduces my OPT employment to less than 20 hours per week due to COVID-19, am I still considered to be maintaining status?
A: Yes, SEVP issued guidance on April 30 that states, “For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT.”