Optional Practical Training Regulations: Counting Days of Unemployment 

The regulations on Optional Practical Training published by the Department of Homeland Security on April 8, 2008 have raised many questions, and a particular area of concern is the requirement that students must now count days of unemployment while on Optional Practical Training, effective with the start date of their EAD card.  The following information comes from policy guidance published by the Department of Homeland Security. 

Days of Unemployment Are Limited

The regulations establish a limit on the number of days students in a period of post-completion OPT can be unemployed and still maintain F-1 status. For students on regular post-completion OPT or who are eligible for an automatic extension due to the H-1B cap gap provisions, the limit is 90 days. Students with an approved 17-month STEM OPT extension will receive another 30 days of unemployment time for a total of 120 days over the entire period of post-completion OPT.  Students who are authorized for pre-completion OPT (meaning authorized Optional Practical Training taking place during the time a student is still registered with Manhattan College and prior to the student’s program completion date) are not required to count days of unemployment. 

Each day during the period when OPT authorization begins and ends that the student does not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment. The only exception is that periods of up to 10 days between the end of one job and the beginning of the next job will not be included in the calculation for time spent unemployed.  

Days of Unemployment and Travel Outside the United States

If a student whose approved period of OPT has started then travels outside of the United States while unemployed, the time spent outside the United States will count as unemployment against the 90/120-day limits. 

If a student travels while employed either during a period of leave authorized by an employer or as part of their employment, the time spent outside the United States will not count as unemployment.  

Exceeding the period of unemployment

A student who has exceeded the period of unemployment while on post-completion OPT has violated his or her status unless he or she takes one of the following actions: 

  • Applies to continue his or her education by a change of level or transferring to another SEVP-certified school  
  • Departs the United States  
  • Takes action to otherwise maintain legal status