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Video Summary

Step 1: Begin Employment

Types of Employment

OPT allows for employment in your field of study (if you are an undergraduate student, the employment must related to your major, not your minor).  If you are not sure whether the employment offered is in your field of study, you will need to review the curriculum you studied to make sure that the material you learned from your major courses is being used in the position you are being offered.

If requested by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, students must be prepared to provide evidence of employment and how it relates to the major field of study. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the student to maintain evidence, for each job, of the position held, proof of the duration of that employment, the job title, contact information for the student's supervisor or manager, and a description of the work.


The following types of employment allowed during OPT are:

  • Part-time employment (at least 20 hours per week)
  • Full-time employment
  • Paid employment
  • Unpaid employment (Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate US labor laws.)
  • See here for resources on finding a job for OPT

While on OPT, students may work for multiple employers, short-term multiple employers (performing artists), work for hire, self-employed business owner, or employment through an agency. Freelance employment is also allowed. However, all employment must be related to the degree program.

Keeping Valid Records of OPT Employment

ISPO highly recommends that students retain records of all reported employment while actively pursuing Optional Practical Training (OPT). Regardless of if you are reporting a paid, unpaid, or volunteer position, we recommend you obtain an offer letter or request a letter from your employer detailing your position, start and end dates, and job duties. In the event you are traveling or need to demonstrate in a future application (such as H-1B or Permanent Residency), how you maintained status during OPT period, these documents will be important. If you are self-employed, volunteering, or interning, you should keep any documentation showing that you were engaged and working in your field of study. This document is not required for SEVP Portal.


Unemployment Limit

During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment. Students may not exceed a cumulative total of 90 days of unemployment during the post-completion OPT period. Unemployment days are counted from the ‘Valid From’ date on your EAD card. Students who exceed 90 days of unemployment are in violation of their F-1 visa status. There is no 60-day grace period after the 90th day of unemployment.

If you are approaching your 90 days of unemployment, you must take one of the following actions:

Step 2: Set Up SEVP Portal Account

SEVP Portal Account

  • Once your OPT is approved by USCIS (and the start date is not in the future), you will receive an email to your personal non-UCSD email from to set up your SEVP Portal account.
  • The subject line of the email will be: “Optional Practical Training Approval – the next step. Create an SEVP Portal account.”
  • Follow the instructions in the email. Click the link in the email, submit your SEVIS ID, and create a password to set up your user profile.


SEVP Portal Assistance

  • Email Reset: If you do not receive an email (and the OPT start date is not in the future) from, check your spam or junk email folder.
  • If the email is not there, the email link has expired, or if you get locked out of your account, please submit the SEVP Portal Assistance Request in

Step 3: Report Your Employment in SEVP Portal

Report Employment

After you successfully create your SEVP Portal account, submit any of the following updates within 10 days of the change if you:

  • Change your name
  • Change your address in the U.S.
  • Change your employer or location of employment
  • Have interruptions in employment

Important noteYou do not need to report your employment directly to ISPO; you only need to report your employment in the SEVP Portal. If you do not report your employment OR you accrue more than 90 days of unemployment, your SEVIS record and OPT will be terminated. If you are changing your non-immigrant status or are no longer continuing to maintain your OPT, you should submit the Termination or Completion of Status Reporting Form (see Step 8 below).


SEVP Portal Assistance

  • Change Email Address Listed in SEVIS:
    • If you would like to change your email address associated with SEVIS, submit the SEVP Portal Assistance Request in
  • Reporting BEYOND 10 Days of Employment Start Date:
    • Students who begin employment on OPT must report employment in the SEVP Portal within 10 days of their employment start date.
    • If you are reporting employment in the SEVP Portal and the employment start date is more than 10 days in the past, the system will not allow it.
    • In order to correct this, log into SEVP Portal and input today or tomorrow as the start date. In addition, you must also submit the SEVP Portal Assistance Request in and ISPO will correct the date for you.
    • NOTE: It may take up to 3 business days for the information to reflect in SEVP Portal after ISPO completes your SEVP Portal Assistance Request. Please do not resubmit a duplicate SEVP Portal Assistance Request unless it has been more than 3 business days since ISPO has completed your SEVP Portal Assistance Request.

Step 4: Request I-20 through iPortal

Request an Updated I-20

  • If you need an updated I-20, request log in to and scroll to the "Alumni" section:
    • If you are requesting an updated I-20 that shows your OPT status as going from pending to approved, submit an “Updated I-20/DS-2019 Request".
    • If you are requesting an updated I-20 for updates to employer information, submit an "Updated I-20/DS-2019 Request".
    • If you are requesting an updated I-20 for a new travel signature, submit the "Travel Signature I-20/DS-2019 Request".
    • If you are requesting an updated I-20 due to the I-20 being lost, damaged, or stolen, submit the "Replacement I-20/DS-2019 Request".
  • Before you submit a request for an updated I-20, verify that all your information is correct in the SEVP Portal. ISPO will not update SEVIS for you. You are required by ISPO to submit your updates through the SEVP Portal.

Step 5 (If Applicable): Submit Termination or Completion of Status Reporting Form if Changing Immigration Status or Departing U.S.

Changing Immigration Status or Departing the U.S.

Submit the "Termination or Completion of Status Reporting Form" in if

You cannot submit these changes through your SEVP Portal account.

Travel With Approved OPT

Travel Outside the U.S. With Approved OPT

Students on OPT are still in F-1 student status. To reenter the U.S., you must have:

  • Current passport that is valid up to six months after reentry date
  • Current F-1 visa
  • Current I-20 with valid travel signature on page 2. See "Step 4: Request I-20 through iPortal" above to request an updated OPT I-20 with a valid travel signature.
    • For post-completion OPT, travel signatures are valid for only six months
  • Original EAD card
  • Original job offer letter or verification of employment from employer

In addition, students with expired visas may find it difficult to renew their F-1 visa for practical training purposes. Students on OPT are advised to plan carefully before leaving the U.S. and contact the U.S. Consulate in their home country regarding visa renewal processes. You can also review our general travel and reentry page.

Do you have additional questions about this OPT Stage? Follow the links below to get your answers: