Reminder About Termination of OPT After School Transfer or Change in Education Level

On May 18, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a reminder for F1 students on OPT titled “Automatic Termination of Optional Practical Training for F-1 Students If They Transfer to a Different School or Begin Study at Another Educational Level” [PDF version].

In the notice, the USCIS reminded F1 students on OPT “that transferring to another school or beginning study at another education level (for example, beginning a master's program after completing a bachelor's degree) automatically terminates their OPT as well as their corresponding employment authorization document (EAD).”

However, the USCIS explained that although transferring schools or moving to a different education level results in the automatic termination of OPT and an OPT-related EAD, the student may remain in F1 status provided that he or she complies with all of the requirements for maintaining F1 student status. In the context of F1 students on OPT at the time of transferring or moving to a new educational level, these requirements “include not working with a terminated EAD, because termination means that students are no longer authorized to work in the United States.”

Unauthorized employment while in F1 student status carries several serious immigration consequences. First, unauthorized employment constitutes a breach of F1 status, and an F1 student who engages in unauthorized employment is ineligible for reinstatement of F1 student status [see article]. An F1 student who engages in unauthorized employment will likely be subject to removal from the United States. Furthermore, after engaging in unauthorized employment, the F1 student may begin to accrue unlawful presence [see article], which can lead to him or her eventually being subject to the unlawful presence bars [see article].

It is important for F1 students to exercise caution in any matter dealing with employment authorization under OPT. When in doubt, an F1 student should consult with an experienced immigration attorney and his or her DSO. Even inadvertent violations of F1 status, especially when they involve unauthorized employment, may carry serious immigration consequences.

The USCIS news alert refers to OPT generally. For those who are interested in learning about the STEM OPT rules and procedures, please see our full article on that subject [see article].