(if you are about to apply or your application is pending)
In the current situation, USCIS will continue to process OPT/STEM applications as expected, and all rules and reporting requirements remain the same after your application is approved. Please follow the instructions on our website to apply for OPT and OPT STEM.
When your I-20 recommending OPT/STEM is finished, you will need to request that it be mailed to you.
If you would like to schedule an appointment to ask questions or review your application materials, you can schedule an appointment with your ISS advisor through iAdvise – appointments are available through phone and Zoom (video chat).
Mailing address: Because ISS is currently receiving mail on a reduced schedule, please use a personal address to receive your OPT documents.
EAD delays: USCIS posted the following notice authorizing the temporary use of an I-797 EAD approval notice (not a receipt notice) to establish employment authorization for I-9 purposes. To qualify, the I-797 approval notice must have "a Notice date on or after December 1, 2019 through and including August 20, 2020." I-797 approval notices with Notice dates outside this range will not qualify. Employers who use this flexibility will have to reverify the employee on Form I-9 with the actual EAD (or suitable other combination of documents) by December 1, 2020.
There are no changes in the existing rules related to OPT.
- Make sure you understand your employer’s options for sick leave
- Make sure you understand your health insurance
- Ask your employer about remote work options and expectations during the Coronavirus situation.
I have lost my job or am worried about losing my job. What happens with my unemployment clock (90 days for OPT, 150 days for OPT STEM) if I can no longer work due to Coronavirus?
First, it is important to determine if you are being laid off or if you are being placed on temporary leave in accordance with your company's leave policies." In the first scenario, being laid off, this means that you do not have a job to come back to and will be asked to reapply. If you are placed on leave – whether paid or unpaid – this means that your workplace is temporarily suspending services, but will keep your position for you and expect you to return when the company reopens. If you are not sure, please ask this question directly of your boss or your HR office, as this is a very important distinction.
- If you are being placed on leave in accordance with an official policy, then the days you are not working will not count as unemployment and will not count against your 90-day (or 150-day) maximum period of unemployment (your "unemployment clock").
- If you are being laid off, however, you are required to report this end in employment within 10 days. These days will count against your 90-day (or 150-day) unemployment clock. The international education community has asked SEVP and USCIS to issue guidance on this issue and consider a temporary halt in counting of unemployment days, but at this times the rules have not changed. If any update is released (and we hope it will be) we will share it with you.
If you are not clear on how many unemployment days you have left, please contact ISS for an update.
Can I file for Unemployment Insurance benefits?
There is not a clear answer to whether F-1 students are eligible. Unemployment benefits vary state by state, but generally nonimmigrants (which includes F-1 student visa holders) are not eligible to receive public benefits. If this is something you are interested in pursuing, we highly recommend you do the following:
- Research nonimmigrant eligibility in your state
- Consult a qualified immigration attorney - ISS resource about locating an immigration attorney (PDF)
USCIS may anticipate delays in processing OPT/STEM applications and is temporarily allowing I-797 Approval Notices to prove employment authorization. Please see the information above, under EAD delays.
You can follow USCIS in case they make any updates related to OPT here: https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-response-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19