Counting Days of Unemployment– Consequence for Visa Status and OPT Authorization

  • Initial OPT Year - 90 Day Limit
  • STEM Authorization – additional 60 days (150 Day Limit, aggregate for both OPT authorizations)

Authorization for OPT means you must seek and begin employment related to your degree within 90 days of the start date on your EAD card. Employment must be reported. It is a serious violation of visa status to be unemployed past the time limitation. Your F-1 status would be in peril and your OPT authorization will end early. You must be in status to keep an employment authorization or apply for a new authorization.

Days of unemployment are limited!

The regulations establish a 90-day limit for unemployment during the first OPT authorization. Once authorized for a STEM Extension of OPT an additional 60 days are allowed for a total of 150 days. In the STEM period, and unemployment days from the first OPT count toward the 150-day total.

  • Anyone authorized for Post-Completion OPT or STEM OPT must count the days they are unemployed click here.
  • The 90-day limit is also in effect for ABD students on Post-Completion OPT
  • Every day is counted including Saturday and Sunday
  • Cap-Gap period is included in the 90-day limit
  • The count is an aggregate number, all periods of unemployment are added together

Students who are authorized for pre-completion OPT (meaning authorized OPT taking place prior to coursework completion) are not required to count days of unemployment.

Serious consequences for exceeding the period of unemployment

If you exceed the limit for unemployment you have violated your status unless you take one of the following actions:

  1. Apply to continue your education by a change of level or transferring to another Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school
  2. Depart the United States
  3. Take action to otherwise maintain legal status

Days of unemployment are counted during travel outside the United States

Take care planning travel outside of the United States while unemployed. If you are authorized for OPT the days you are unemployed after the start date on the EAD card are counted even while you are outside of the United States.

  • the 90-day limit for Initial OPT (1 year)
  • 150-day limit for 24-Month Extension of OPT (include number of unemployed days from Year One of OPT)

If your travel is part of your job responsibility or during a period of leave authorized by your employer the time spent outside the United States will not count as unemployment.

Review the information on Kinds of Employment Allowed During Initial OPT and STEM OPT

If you have questions about unemployment, e-mail us at so we can assist you.