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Navigating the Aftermath of OPT Unemployment

If you are using OPT, you are entitled to a 90-day grace period. This means throughout the period that you are using OPT, you can be unemployed for no more than 90 days accumulatively. If you get laid off while using OPT, or simply couldn't find an employer and the 90-day limitation is approaching an end, what can you do to save yourself from illegally staying/working in the U.S?

Create backup strategies while job hunting when using OPT I-20

1. Seek Employment @ small businesses

Seek employment opportunities from small businesses, even startups. It is very important for you to accumulate some work experience, no matter if it is from a big company or a small one. Without work experience, it will only be harder for you in the future. As an OPT holder, USCIS does not have requirements  

2. Open your own company and be your own employer

How to do that?

  • Choose a business structure: The most common options are sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), corporation, or cooperative.

  • Choose a business name: The business name should be unique and should not infringe on any trademarks. You can check the availability of a name by searching the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's database.

  • Register the business: File online at your state’s official website. It only takes about 7-14 business days.

  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): With an SSN, you can obtain an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for free.

  • Create a business plan: A business plan outlines your business goals, strategies, and financial projections. Has a business plan, will make your company looks legitimate, and helps with RFE if needed.

  • Comply with tax laws: Make sure to understand your tax obligations, including federal and state income tax, payroll tax, sales tax, and property tax.


§  LLC might be the easiest way to go

§  Your company’s business must be closely related to your field of study

§  If you are using STEM extended OPT, additional requirements need to be met such as, your company must be e-verified; you have to be able to prove that you “can be fired”, which means you cannot be the sole practitioner of the company, etc.

3. Get a new i-20 from a different degree program

Once you exceeded the grace period of your OPT, you will lose your F1 status. At this moment, you can choose to enroll in a different program to continue your study in America.

This is also a great idea if you have used up your OPT while not being able to get an H1B visa in time to continue your working status.

For example, if your OPT from your bachelor's degree is used up or you exceeded its grace period, you can choose to enroll in a graduate-level program and gain a master's degree while enjoying your legal stay in America.

A good choice would be enrolling in one of the Day 1 CPT universities. Day 1 CPT programs are designed to empower students in the work field. You can advance your study by participating in internships. As an international student, you can gain real working experience by using day 1 CPT, which will help you enormously after graduation. Meanwhile, it is always a good idea to have income while living in a foreign country to lighten your financial burden.

Popular day 1 CPT courses/day 1 CPT programs:

  • MBA

  • Data Analysis

  • Computer Science

  • Information Technology

  • Information Technology Management

Contact us before your OPT ends. Be prepared for the next step. Let our experts help you with your working status in America.

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