Employment must be in a job that is related to the student’s degree program. If the relationship between the job and a student's field of study is called into question by USCIS in the future, the burden of proof is on the student to demonstrate the relationship. The types of employment allowed during the initial 12-month period of OPT include (these do not apply to the STEM Extension):
- Paid employment.
Students may work part time (at least 20 hours per week when on post-completion OPT) or full time in a job related to their field of study.
- Multiple employers.
Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student’s degree program.
- Short-term multiple employers (performing artists).
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. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing a list of all gigs.
- Work for hire.
This is also 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 must 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 may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must work full-time (at least 20 hours/week). The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student’s degree program.
- Employment through an agency.
Students must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
- Unpaid employment.
Students on the initial 12-month OPT may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week. These students must be able to provide evidence from the employer that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.
It is recommended that students maintain evidence for each job: the position held, duration of that position, the job title, contact information for the student’s supervisor or manager, and a description of the work. Students must always report employment to Berkeley International Office online through our Student SEVIS Update (SSU) form.