U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently cautions F-1 students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) that transferring to another school or beginning study at another educational level (for example, beginning a master’s program after completing a bachelor’s degree) automatically terminates their OPT along with their corresponding employment authorization document (EAD).
Although authorization to engage in OPT ends upon transferring to a different school or changing educational level, students in F-1 status will not be otherwise affected as long as they comply with all requirements for maintaining their student status, USCIS said. These requirements include not working with a terminated EAD, because termination means that students are no longer authorized to work in the United States. Working in the United States without authorization “has serious immigration consequences, including removal from the country and bars on reentry. Furthermore, remaining in the United States in violation of lawful nonimmigrant status could lead to an accrual of unlawful presence which includes another set of penalties under the Immigration and Nationality Act,” USCIS warned.
Currently, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) informs USCIS of the termination date, and the OPT termination is automatic under current regulations, USCIS noted. USCIS said it has updated its systems and will begin to enter the EAD termination date into these systems after being notified by SEVP. USCIS will notify affected students and provide them with an opportunity to correct any errors in the record via their designated school official.
The OPT program grew 400% from 2008 to 2016, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data. Students from India made up the largest portion of OPT permit holders during the period analyzed, with 441,400 permit holders, a 30% share of the total number. Students from China came second at 313,500 (21%), followed by South Koreans at 90,800 (6%).