Whether you are aspiring for an F1 visa, studying in the USA on an F1 visa, or planning to change your status from an F1 visa, your mind must be baffled with hundreds of questions. Well, international students who have successfully completed their degree program in the USA would be in a much better position as compared to international students who have just availed a visa or begun studying.
Students falling into the latter category, i.e., F1 visa holders who have not yet moved to the USA or have moved recently might be having the task of researching the rules and regulations on the top of their to-do list. But the more you research the more questions you encounter. If you have conducted a decent amount of research, you might be having an idea of OPT, i.e., Optional Practical Training.
Amongst the many doubts surrounding the OPT, the doubt whether multiple OPT jobs can be carried out at a given point in time or not, trouble almost every student. This blog post is intended to provide a definite answer to this doubt.
What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
Though it’s not required to mention, optional practical training or OPT is a way through which F1 student visa holders can secure employment in any part of the US before and/or after completion of their studies. For each level of academic degree, i.e., bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral, you are allowed 12 months of OPT. You can split your OPT period between pre-completion OPT and post-completion OPT.
Students enrolled in a degree program, which is included in the designated list of STEM fields prepared by the USCIS, get an additional period of 24 months once their initial OPT gets completed. This period is known as ‘STEM OPT Extension’, ‘OPT STEM Extension’ or ‘STEM Extension’. Thus, STEM candidates get a total period of 36 months (3 years) for pursuing employment.
Can you Work for Multiple Employers on OPT?
Holding multiple OPT jobs or having multiple OPT employers during pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT, and STEM OPT extension is bound by certain rules made to protect the interests of international students, native workers, and employers in the United States of America.
Let’s see different scenarios
During pre-completion OPT, students can work part-time and full-time when the school is in session and not in session respectively. However, students can opt to work on a part-time basis even when the school is not in session.
You can work for a sole proprietorship firm, a limited liability partnership (LLP) firm, a company or any other form of the business entity directly or through a placement consultant. You can even provide your services as an independent contractor.
Candidates can also get engaged in research activities, short-term gigs, self-employment endeavors, volunteering, and community service work. But, irrespective of the type of OPT work authorization, you need to abide by certain guidelines for maintaining a valid F1 status.
First and foremost, the employment opportunity should be related to your major area of study. Next, you should have permission from the USCIS and the DSO of your school in the form of an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card.
Pre-completion OPT jobs that you undertake throughout your degree program can be paid or unpaid, but you must not work more than the hours allowed. For pre-completion part-time OPT, you cannot work for more than 20 hours a week.
For pre-completion full-time OPT, you can work for more than 20 hours a week but not more than 40 hours a week. You need not have a job offer in hand while applying for an EAD card for a pre-completion job.
Are multiple OPT jobs allowed?
You can work on multiple jobs during your pre-completion OPT. But you just need to ensure that the total hours combining all your pre-completion part-time OPT jobs do not exceed 20 in a week. In the case of pre-completion OPT jobs carried out during official school breaks (which might include full-time jobs, part-time jobs, or a combination of both), the total hours should not exceed 40 in a week.
Post-completion OPT jobs have to be carried out full-time. In other words, there is no limit to the number of hours allowed for working. But you need to comply with the requirement of working for the minimum number of hours to be considered as being employed. You should work at least 20 hours a week.
Just like in the case of a pre-completion OPT EAD card, you need not have a job offer in hand while applying for a post-completion OPT EAD card. Another similarity between a pre-completion OPT job and a post-completion OPT job is that it can be either paid or unpaid.
So, you can work for an organization, start your own venture, volunteer, or perform any other kind of job. Needless to say, your job role should be relevant to your major area of study, as the objective behind the OPT program is to offer practical exposure to students.
Are multiple OPT jobs allowed?
Multiple post-completion OPT jobs can be carried out once you complete your studies in a college or a university.
You may work for more than one employer or job, but all employment must be related to your degree program. The cumulative number of hours should be 20 or more in a week. You can accept full-time employment, part-time employment, or a combination of both.
STEM OPT Extension
As mentioned above, the OPT extension period of 24 months is allowed for international students participating in STEM disciplines. You must have completed 12 months of initial OPT (via pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT, or both) to become eligible for STEM OPT extension.
The guidelines pertaining to the STEM OPT extension vary widely from the pre-completion OPT and the post-completion OPT. The major difference lies in the reimbursement or salary. Candidates must be paid for all their jobs carried out during the OPT STEM extension period.
You should perform job duties related to your major area of study for an employer who is included in the E-Verify database. Your prospective employer needs to submit a duly filled Form I-983 which states the training plan designed for you.
The employing organization should be able to prove that they have sufficient resources and personnel for imparting training to the STEM OPT candidate. The existence of a bona fide relationship between an employee and an employer is a must when it comes to a STEM OPT extension job.
Therefore, the employer who has signed your Form I-983 should be the one who implements the training plan and pays you. Throughout your employment tenure, your employer must stay in good standing with the E-Verify program.
Are multiple OPT jobs allowed?
During the STEM OPT extension period, candidates can work for multiple employers but not simultaneously. As a detailed training plan is prepared and executed by every employer who hires F1 STEM OPT candidates, you can work for only one employer at a given point in time.
You have the right to switch jobs when the pre-decided employment duration ends or if you feel that you need new avenues for growth. But you need to make sure that your new employer is registered in the E-Verify program and fulfills all the regulatory requirements.
The question “Can I do multiple OPT jobs?”, “Can I do multiple jobs on OPT?”, or “Can I work for multiple employers during OPT?” comes to the mind of every F1 student visa holder. We hope to have answered this question to your satisfaction. Whether you work for a single employer or multiple employers, you should follow the mandatory rules and regulations as well as fulfill the reporting requirements regarding your OPT employment.
Max Troy is the Career Counsellor as well as a passionate Author. Well, he has years of experience in the Career and Jobs industry. As a part of his career at OPTnation, he helped various OPT and CPT candidates to shape their Career. Through his knowledge and writing skill, he is contributing to the students to find the best Career advice and immigration topics. Do share the information if you like it.