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OPT Concerns

OPT “Employment” Update from SEVP – can be less than 20 hours per week

  • In early May 2020, SEVP announced that OPT employment can now include work that is less thank 20 hours per week.  This cannot be zero hours per week, and must still be related to your degree field, but the change is that it no longer has to be a minimum of 20 hours per week.  (citation: SEVP COVID-19 FAQ updated 8/7/2020, Page 14, item 8)

OPT Concerns

  • New applicants – OPT applications will process with USCIS as expected, to the best of our knowledge.  Regular OPT rules will apply once OPT is approved – from the approved OPT start date, OPT rules allow for up to 90 days of unemployment time. OPT employment can be part-time (at least 20 hours) or full-time, and can be paid or unpaid.  It must be directly related to the degree you have just completed. You can also change employers as often as you like during OPT. If hiring slows down this summer, be sure to consider other kinds of employment, such as part-time or unpaid positions that utilize your degree skill sets, even temporarily until you are able to secure a more desirable full-time position.
  • Graduates currently on OPT and the STEM OPT Extension – There are no changes in the existing rules related to OPT and the STEM OPT Extension. We would encourage you to make sure you understand your employer’s options for sick leave, should you become ill or even concerned that you might be getting sick. Your employer should also be giving clear direction about remote work options, and expectations during the Coronavirus situation. If you have travel (international or within the US) or conferences planned, please work with your employer to understand how to best manage these plans. Lastly, make sure you understand your health insurance that you have through your employer, in case you need it should you become sick.


OPT logistics for current applicants:


  • New OPT I-20 from IES:  IES staff will prepare OPT I-20’s as usual, as the IES Portal where you apply for your OPT I-20 is all online. We will still be able to prepare the new I-20, and provide a scanned copy of the new I-20 with our signature in your IES Portal.  You can print this I-20, sign it, and add it to your OPT application – you do not need the original I-20 for your application. Please follow all directions carefully when you receive an email from IES with your OPT I-20 and next steps, as this will direct you to access your new I-20 online and next steps to complete your application.  Email questions to!
  • Copying: To make the required copies for your document for your OPT application, consider these options, though there are many others as well:
    • Any Baltimore County Public Library Branch, once reopened:
    • Copy services are available in Office Stores (Office Depot, Staples, MinuteMan Press, etc) and Shipping Stores (UPS, FedEx, any shipping store) – many of these are located on Route 40 in Catonsville, near WalMart
  • Mailing Services: General mail services in the US are not currently expected to be interrupted.  You can use the services of shipping services from stores like those noted above, or any regular post office location.  Every town has a Post Office branch.
  • Delays with USCIS?  As of late March 2020, USCIS has not published any anticipated delays in processing OPT applications.  Much of their work is already remote, so this is unlikely to be a big disruption for this particular service that they provide.
  • OPT applications – review of completed package before mailing: You will now find a new application type in your IES Portal, called OPT Application Review – once you have your entire OPT application complete and ready to mail, including your new OPT I-20, you can use this to share your complete OPT package for IES staff to review, as we won’t be able to do this in person.
  • Mailing Addresses to receive your OPT documents back from USCIS: With mail access restricted on campus for the rest of the semester, please use a personal address to receive your OPT documents.  This can be your home address, or that of a friend or family member.
  • If you have already applied and used the IES address, please use your OPT application receipt number once you have it to update the mailing address of your application here:
  • Abroad and trying to apply for OPT?  These kinds of applications have had mixed success – some are approved, some are not.  You are welcome to try, but please understand that there is an increased risk factor in applying from outside of the US.   You also need to make sure you use a reliable US mailing address, where someone you trust will receive your mail.


Job Searching during COVID-19:

The Career Center shared this article that may be useful to you: “9 Job Search Tips for International Students in the Age of Coronavirus”


USCIS Updates:

You can follow USCIS in case they make any updates related to OPT here:   As of March 23, 2020, USCIS closed its in-person operations only, and will continue its usual processing unrelated to in-person appointments.  OPT does NOT require an in-person appointment.


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