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What can be counted as valid/legal employment during OPT?? _ Thanks so much!!

Los Angeles, CA |

Dear attorney,

I know that students with OPT can not have accumulated 90-day unemployment. I'm wondering whether
1) voluntarily helping school professor with their research in the lab (no-pay)
2) unpaid internship in a profit organization

can be counted as valid/legal employment during OPT period??

Thank you so much!! I am really appreciate!!


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Attorney answers 3


"Employment" means being paid for labor. 20 hours per week is permissible to maintain OPT.

Please note that this posting does not constitute legal advice or create any attorney-client relationship with the inquirer. Avvo is a useful forum to obtain general information on legal issues, but is not a substitute for direct, confidential consultation with an attorney in any legal matter.



Dear Mr. Hanlon, thanks for the reply. Do unpaid internship & volunteer help to maintain OPT? Thank you very much!


Under the OPT guidance from SEVP, if you volunteer on a full time basis (more than 20 hours a week) in your area of study and your DSO puts this in the SEVIS system, then this would toll the 90 day clock.

The information you obtain in this response is for general knowledge. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. I invite you to contact me and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting me, nor my responding to the question, creates an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to me until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.



Dear Mr. Torrey, thanks for the reply. Can working at professor's lab be counted as volunteer it is related to my area of study? Thanks!

Robert Victor Torrey

Robert Victor Torrey


It could be, but you need to follow up with your DSO and make sure that they are updating SEVIS system with your work information. Another factor to consider is whether the work with the professor is a position that would be hired or a student type position.


You need to discuss this matter with your designated school officer.

Mr. Shusterman is a former INS Trial Attorney (1976-82) with over 35 years of immigration experience. His response to your question is general in nature, as not all the facts are known to him. You should retain an attorney experienced in immigration law to review all the facts in your case in order to receive advice specific to your case. Mr. Shusterman's statement above does not create an attorney/client relationship.

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