Types of Work that Constitute Employment on OPT & Evidence of Employment

There are particular types of employment that F-1 visa holders may participate while on standard pre-completion and post-completion OPT.

  • Employment must be within the student's field for which OPT was authorized (listed on the I-20).
  • At least 20 hours/week (for standard post-completion OPT).
  • Employment may be paid or unpaid as long as the unpaid work does not violate labor laws. The Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division determines labor laws.
Allowable on both pre-completion and standard post-completion OPT
  • Regular paid employment in a position directly related to the student's program of study. Students may work for multiple employers, as long as it is directly related to the student's program of study.
  • Payment by multiple short-term employers: Students such as musicians and other performing artists, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. 
  • Work for hire: This is commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students should be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
  • Self-employed business owner: Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student should be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program.
  • Employment through an agency: Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
  • Volunteers or unpaid interns (for standard pre or post-completion OPT): Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work should be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. A student should be able to provide evidence, acquired from the student's employer, to verify that he or she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.
Which documents should I have to prove that I have been employed?
  1. Copies of job offer letters and agreements/contracts with all OPT employers including start and end dates.
  2. Copies of job descriptions including job title, duties, location, pay rate and proposed number of hours to be worked per week.
  3. If you worked for an agency or consultancy, keep evidence of the projects you worked on.
  4. Keep copies of your pay vouchers or pay stubs for all periods of employment.
  5. Maintain copies of your bank statements that show direct or corresponding deposits from your employer(s).
  6. Copies of you W-2 tax forms.
If you engage in employment that is not paid while on OPT, we recommend you keep the following records
  1. Copies of employment agreements or contracts with the employer including start and end dates, training mode (on location, online, etc) and location of the internship/unpaid training for each employer.
  2. Copies of all diplomas, completion certificates and/or certifications that you received related to the training programs identified.
  3. If you worked/trained as an unpaid employee for a third party keep evidence of the projects/contracts you worked on.
  4. Copies of company time and attendance records that document your daily tasks in detail for all employers during the unpaid internship or training.
    You will not be required to submit this proof of employment to OIE, but it may be requested by USCIS if you are applying for future immigration benefits.