Maintaining Student Status / Post-Completion OPT

Maintaining Status - Post-Completion OPT

As an F-1 student on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training, it is your responsibility to understand and comply with the terms of your immigration status during your stay in the United States. Any violation of the immigration regulations could jeopardize your status and legal stay in the country.

Below are key considerations about maintaining status while on Post-Completion OPT with links to more information. If you have any questions, contact an International Student Advisor.

Keep your Immigration Documents Safe and Valid

Passport: Your foreign passport must be valid at the time you enter the US and throughout your studies at CSUF. Failure to do so is a violation of your immigration status. If your passport will expire, contact your country’s consulate or embassy for the renewal procedure.

U.S. Visa: Your U.S. visa must be valid upon entry into the U.S. It can, however, expire while you are in the U.S. as long as you are maintaining your legal status. If your visa is lost or stolen, follow the steps in the State Department Guide immediately so that the U.S. Consulate or Embassy that issued your visa is aware of the issue and can assist you in the future.

I-20: Your I-20 with OPT recommendation on page 3 must be valid at all times. If you lose your I-20, fill out the I-20 Reprint Request form and ISS will reissue your I-20.

EAD Card: Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card is an important document that shows you are allowed to work in the United States and the specific dates from which you are authorized to work. If you lose your EAD card and need a replacement, contact the ISS Office for assistance.

I-94: The I-94, "Arrival/Departure Record" is a critical record that shows that you have been legally admitted to the United States, the class of admission, and the authorized period of stay. It is very important that the information on the record is correct. You can obtain your I-94 by going to the I-94 website. If you cannot find the record, contact ISS for further assistance.

Keep Your Local Address and Contact Information Up To Date

You must maintain a valid local address, phone number and email address with the ISS office at all times. If you change any of the above, you must report this to ISS within 10 calendar days by using the Personal Information Update form. Once the ISS office approves your form, you will receive a confirmation email and full summary of your submission.

Work At Least 20 Hours Per Week in Degree Related Employment

You must work at least 20 hours per week in a position that is directly related to the degree you earned at CSUF. When reporting your OPT employment to ISS, you will be asked to provide a brief explanation of how your job is directly related to your field of study. It is important that your explanation include no special characters or formatting, be logical and free of spelling/grammar errors.

For further guidance, see the below example explanations provided by the Department of Homeland Security.


  1. Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering: I work full time as an Electrical Engineer at ABC Corp., a government contractor. In my job, I analyze client requirements for electrical systems and provide them with cost estimates of such systems. My work requires understanding of electrical circuit theory, which I studied in-depth at the University of ABC.
  2. Bachelor's degree in Business: I work full time as a Loan Officer at a mortgage company, Happy Homes, where I meet with clients and evaluate, authorize and recommend approval of loan applications. On a daily basis, I use the knowledge I gained in my credit analysis, sales and marketing classes that I took as part of my major program of study.
  3. Master's degree in Music: I am working at a hospital playing the harp in patient rooms. I also conduct hands-on harp beginner workshops for long-term patients. On average, I work at the hospital 35 hours a week. My duties directly utilize the skills and knowledge I acquired from my coursework and degree in music therapy.
  4. Master's degree in Computer Science: I am employed as a Computer and Information Research Scientist at ABC Research Institute. I work as part of a team of scientists and engineers that designs experiments to test the operation of various software systems. My work builds on research in complex algorithms and machine learning, which I studied as part of my master's project.
  5. Master's degree in Kinesiology: I am working 25 hours a week in a health food store as a consultant for Self-Made Inc., designing and teaching exercise classes that are incorporated into a customer's overall nutrition and exercise plan. My designs and customer instruction draw upon my studies and classwork in exercise therapy and physical reconditioning.

Follow Volunteer Rules

A volunteer, as defined by The Department of Labor, must possess all of the following attributes:

  1. Part-time only
  2. For a non-profit organization
  3. Does not displace a regular employed worker
  4. Does not contain work that would normally be performed by a regular employee

If the position does not meet all of the above, you and the company should not engage, as it may be in violation of the Department of Labor and the Fair Labor Standards Act. To maintain your status and your continued eligibility for the OPT benefit, you should not engage in any “volunteer” opportunities that do not meet all of the conditions above.

Limit Any Study to Part Time

If you are on approved OPT, your F-1 status depends on maintaining your employment. If you wish to study, you must do so only on a part-time basis. If you want to start a full time program at CSUF or another school, you must alert the ISS office that you need to transfer or change your level of education. Doing so will end your work benefit, but will allow you to study full time. There are no options for F-1 students that will allow full time study and use of the OPT benefit at the same time; you will need to choose one or the other.

Do Not Exceed 90 Days of Unemployment

You are only allowed to be unemployed and/or underemployed (working under 20 hours per week) for a maximum of 90 days during your 12 months of post-completion OPT. Exceeding this maximum is considered a violation of your F-1 status and can result in a termination of your I-20 or USCIS denial of future benefits, such as the H-1B visa. 

Report Changes in OPT Employment

Changes in OPT Employment must be reported to the ISS Office within 10 days through the Post-Completion OPT Employer Update Form. Once the ISS Office approves your form, you will receive a confirmation email and full summary of your submission. An updated I-20 is also available by selecting that option in the above form. If you fail to report within 10 days, you may be subject to a negative termination.

Get Approval before Traveling Outside of the U.S.

If you are planning to travel outside the U.S., you must have a valid travel signature on the I-20 in order to re-enter the U.S. Fill out the Travel Signature Request at least two weeks before you leave the U.S. to allow the ISS office adequate time to process your request. If you travel outside the U.S. and try to re-enter on an expired travel signature, U.S. Customs and Border Protection may deny you entry at the border and you may be forced to return to your home country.

Act Before your Grace Period Expires

You must leave the U.S. or transfer to another SEVP-approved school no later than 60 days after your OPT ends. You can verify the end date where the 60 days starts by looking at your EAD card. If you exit the US during your grace period, you cannot return in F-1 status.

To transfer before the deadline, submit a Transfer-Out to Another School form. Processing time may take up to two weeks, so submit the transfer paperwork to the ISS Office at least two weeks before your grace period expires.