Employment related questions are answered in this section and can be located under the following topics:
- On-Campus Student Employment
- Optional Practical Training (F-1 Students)
- Curricular Practical Training (F-1 Students)
- Academic Training (J-1 Students)
- Social Security
Click on the subject area to jump to that topic.
On-Campus Student Employment
Please consult your supervisor to determine if you can continue your work in a remote capacity. During this time period, your remote work will be considered on-campus employment, regardless of where you might be remoting in from. Additionally, please note that with the university returning to full class schedules, on-campus employment is limited to 20 hours/week beginning Saturday, January 16th
Optional Practical Training (F-1 Students)
Yes, you may still apply for OPT while OIS is in remote operation. Please review our new OPT application procedures on the OIS’s OPT page.
No, you cannot use the OIS office as your mailing address on your OPT application while OIS is continuing to operate remotely. You should use your home address as the mailing address, or if you are moving within the next several months, use a friend or family member with a stable address.
If your employer allows you to work remotely, there is no impact on your OPT due to self-quarantine. Similarly, if you are able to take leave (sick leave, vacation days, etc.), there is no impact on your OPT due to self-quarantine. According to the clarifications provided by SEVP on their COVID-19 FAQ page, the employer address in SEVIS / SEVP Portal should not be updated for OPT students temporarily working remotely.
At this time we have not heard from DHS whether they plan to expand the number of allowable unemployment days for OPT/STEM students due to COVID-19. However, if and when we hear any news about this, we will update this FAQ and also send an email to OPT/STEM students to inform you of this update.
This question has been addressed in the SEVP COVID-19 FAQ Document (08/07/2020 update). According to this document, “for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT.”
To date, this is the only information we have on this subject. Our interpretation is that this only applies to students on OPT and does not apply to students on STEM OPT.
Being laid off means you have been separated from employment with no expectation or right to be rehired. If you are laid off, it means your employment has ended and your unemployment days will accrue if you do not find alternative employment in your field for at least 20 hours per week. If you are laid off but given severance pay, it may be difficult to precisely determine what your last day of employment is for the purposes of OPT reporting and counting unemployment days.
The reason for this is because your official last day of employment can depend on several factors such as how your employer sets up the severance pay (continuing you on payroll vs. a lump sum payout, etc.) and how they view your continued (or not) employment status with the employer. As such, if you are laid off with severance, we recommend you ask your employer what your last day of employment would be if you were to request an employment verification letter to know what day to report as your last day of employment.
Possibly, but eligibility depends on a number of factors in your personal circumstances and varies from state to state. It is not advised to determine unemployment benefits eligibility based on generalities, nor can OIS definitively confirm an individual’s eligibility based on generalities. Rather, the best way to determine the eligibility criteria and application process in your state is to review your individual situation in consultation with an attorney familiar with your state’s employment law and/or is to contact your state’s employment agency to seek clarification. Below are a few helpful resources to begin your research:
- This fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Labor gives an overview of Unemployment Insurance in the U.S. Unemployment Insurance is administered at the state level and eligibility and qualification criteria differs from state to state.
- This U.S. Department of Labor web page also gives an overview of Unemployment Insurance in the U.S. including some additional flexibilities related to COVID-19.
- If you live/work in North Carolina: The NC Department of Employment Security administers the state’s unemployment filings and their website has a comprehensive FAQ about filing for unemployment in North Carolina.
- If you work and live in a state other than North Carolina: You can look up your state’s unemployment insurance program to assist in determining whether you are eligible and if so how to apply.
Finally, it is important to remember to represent the facts of your case honestly and completely when applying for any government benefit as failure to do so is a serious issue.
A furlough is a temporary, employer-mandated period of unpaid leave. During a furlough, the employee is not allowed to work and is not paid, however, the employer does typically continue the employee’s benefits (insurance, etc.). Furloughed employees can usually expect their employer to recall them from furlough to continue their work and resume receiving pay after a temporary period of time. Although the employee is not allowed to work and is not paid during a furlough, the employee has not been completely separated from the employer either. And, when a furloughed employee is allowed to return to work, there is no re-hiring process since the employee was never completely separated from employment.
Because of these reasons, it’s not completely clear whether an individual is still “employed” while they are furloughed. As such, it’s unclear whether an OPT student accrues unemployment days during a furlough. We have reached out to SEVP for guidance on this question and have yet to hear back. If and when we receive any guidance on whether an OPT student accrues unemployment days during a furlough, we will update this FAQ and communicate with OPT/STEM students any important information via email.
If your employer allows you to work remotely or if you continue to be employed while on a period of authorized leave (vacation) from work, the time you spend outside of the U.S. will not count as ‘unemployment,’ so you do not have to worry about accruing days toward your 90/150-day unemployment limit (please see 7.1.8 of DHS’ OPT policy guidance). Since the SEVP Portal only allows U.S. addresses, please keep your “employer address” as is (assuming you haven’t changed employers).
Please be aware that if you are outside the U.S. for more than 5 months while on OPT you may not be able to return or may experience difficulty traveling back to the U.S. due to the 5-month rule addressed in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(4). Our interpretation is that the temporary provision regarding leniency on the 5-month rule only applies to current students still pursuing a course of study.
To accommodate students around the country, most of our STEM OPT application process is already online. Please review our STEM OPT page for more information about this process.
While it is difficult to withdraw an OPT application once you have submitted it to USCIS, it is possible if your I-20 end date has not passed or you are still within your 60 day grace period. Before withdrawing your application, you must first obtain admission to another degree program and you must first discuss the OPT withdrawal process with an OIS advisor. Please keep in mind that you have to complete another degree at the same level or higher in order to be eligible for OPT again.
If you are currently on OPT, you cannot cancel your OPT authorization. You can, however, shorten it in order to begin a new degree program. Keep in mind that you have 90 days of unemployment to use over your 12 months of OPT. If you are worried about going over the 90 days of unemployment, in which case USCIS may terminate your record, OIS can complete your F-1 record prior to reaching your unemployment limit, at which point you would be expected to depart the U.S. within your 60 day grace period.
Alternatively if you have admission to another degree program (which must begin no later than five months of completion of your OPT) you may be able to request a transfer of your SEVIS record to attend another school (or a change of level to return to NCSU for a degree program). To be eligible for a SEVIS transfer or change of level, you must have a written confirmation of your admission to another school (or NCSU) and be maintaining your F-1 or J-1 status through the SEVIS transfer release date/change of level start date. (If you are found to be in violation of your visa status prior to the release date, OIS is required to terminate your SEVIS record). More information about the transfer out process can be found here.
You should also note that you can only participate in OPT once per degree level. Meaning if you are currently authorized for OPT based on your Master’s degree, you will not be eligible for OPT upon completion of a second Masters’s degree. You would only be eligible for OPT again if you completed a higher degree level (for example, you must complete a Ph.D. degree if you previously obtained OPT on a master’s degree or you must complete a master’s degree if you previously obtained OPT on a bachelor’s degree).
The current version of form I-983 directly instructs to sign in ink. We know that due to the pandemic many businesses have moved to remote operations, and many employees have no access to a printer. However, I-983 is a government form, and we have no authority to waive its requirements. We have reached out to the respective government agency (SEVP) about the possibility of temporarily allowing digital signatures on Form I-983, but haven’t heard back from them yet.
We are not required to verify whether the form has been signed in ink or otherwise. We’ll accept it unless it looks obviously digital.
Curricular Practical Training (F-1 Students)
Remote work is possible while on CPT (either from the beginning of the CPT authorization or if the work becomes remote in the middle of the CPT authorization) and would not in itself require any special permission or new authorization request, as long as the work continues and there is continued supervision/oversight through various technological means. This remains true if you are working remotely while self-quarantining.
If your employment terminates your employment for any reason, please email email@example.com and we will adjust your CPT authorization if necessary. If your CPT is based on Co-op enrollment, then you will still need to submit the final Summary Report to the CDC.
Academic Training (J-1 Students)
Yes, you can still apply for Academic Training and submit your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may temporarily begin your Academic Training remotely to prevent unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 as long as the host organization is open and able to provide the training remotely. Your DGP or academic advisor can sign your Academic Training Recommendation form electronically. You can read more about applying for Academic Training here.
You may potentially be eligible for post-completion academic training, but you must submit all Academic Training request materials before the end of your 30-day grace period after the semester completion. Please contact your OIS advisor for more information. If you depart the U.S., understand that there will be uncertainty regarding when you may be able to return. Please review the information in our Travel Section of this FAQ to help you as you make these decisions.
If your employer allows you to work remotely and has a supervision structure in place to check on your work progress, there is no impact on your Academic Training due to self-quarantine. Similarly, if you are able to take leave (sick leave, vacation days, etc.), there is no impact on your Academic Training.
Several government agencies have confirmed you may start employment without an SSN or while waiting for an SSN. This is especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the fact that many Social Security Administration offices have either closed or are not accepting new SSN applications. Please review the following communications (relevant excerpts included below) and share with your employer if your employer has questions/concerns about hiring you without an SSN:
- Social Security Administration “Dear Colleague Letter:”
- “An F-1 or M-1 student may work while the Social Security number application is being processed. Employers may wish to reference Social Security’s fact sheet, Employer Responsibilities When Hiring Foreign Workers. This fact sheet contains information on how to report wages for an employee who has not yet received an SSN and is available online. There is no provision in the Social Security Act (the Act) that employers must have their employees’ SSNs before hiring them. Neither is there any provision in the Act that prohibits an employee from beginning work if he or she has not yet obtained an SSN.”
- IRS “Delays in Issuing SSNs to Aliens by the Social Security Administration”
- There is no federal law administered by any federal agency which prohibits the hiring of a person based solely on the fact that the person does not have a Social Security Number (SSN). Similarly, there is no federal law which prohibits the making of a payment to a person based solely on the fact that the person does not have an SSN… If an alien employee can prove his work-eligibility with documents listed on Form I-9 other than a U.S. social security card, then the alien’s Form I-9, even though submitted without an SSN, is valid under the immigration law.
- IRS “Employers Tax Guide”
- “If you file Form W-2 on paper and your employee applied for an SSN but does not have one when you must file Form W-2, enter “Applied For” on the form. If you are filing electronically, enter all zeros (000-00-000) in the social security number field. When the employee receives the SSN, file Copy A of Form W-2c, Corrected Wage and Tax Statement, with the SSA to show the employee’s SSN. Furnish copies B, C, and 2 of Form W-2c to the employee. Up to five Forms W-2c for each Form W-3c may now be filed per session over the Internet, with no limit on the number of sessions. For more information, visit the SSA’s Employer W-2 Filing Instructions & Information webpage. Advise your employee to correct the SSN on his or her original Form W-2. Page 9, Publication 15, Circular E: Employer’s Tax Guide“
- USCIS Form I-9 Fact Sheet for F-1 Students contains the following guidance to students about I-9 validation:
- Q: “What if I have not yet received a Social Security number (SSN)?
- A: An SSN is not required for Form I-9. It is required if your employer uses E-Verify, but E-Verify allows you to work while you wait for an SSN.”