SEVP Reminds F1 Students About Rules for Volunteer Positions and OPT

Wendy Barlow's picture

On May 18, 2018, the Student and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP) of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a message to students on optional practical training (OPT) titled “Reporting Volunteer Positions During OPT Employment” [PDF version]. SEVP subsequently posted a modified version of the message on its website [PDF version].'

The SEVP message deals with volunteer employment and OPT. It explains that “[v]olunteer positions that are not directly related to [an F1 student's] course of study do not qualify as [OPT] and must not be listed as OPT employment.” An F1 student who lists a non-qualifying volunteer position as OPT employment will be deemed to have violated his or her reporting requirements and be subject to removal from the United States.

Furthermore, SEVP makes clear that non-qualifying volunteer positions do not stop an F1 OPT student from accruing unemployment time.

The SEVP statement also reminds F1 students that volunteer employment does not meet the requirements for STEM OPT extensions. An F1 student must receive compensation for STEM OPT extension employment. We discuss STEM OPT extensions in a full article on site [see article].

Whether on OPT or a STEM OPT extension, an F1 student should consult with his or her designated school official (DSO) and with an experienced immigration attorney for guidance on OPT and STEM OPT extension requirements. It is always best for an F1 student to err on the side of caution regarding the rules for OPT and for F1 status due to the potential adverse consequences that may occur as a result of status violations.

To learn more about student visas generally, please see our full section on site [see category].

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SEVP Reminds F1 Students About Rules for Volunteer Positions and OPT