A volunteer position that is not directly related to an F-1 student’s course of study does not qualify as optional practical training (OPT) and must not be listed as OPT employment on a student’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System record.
If you report a non-qualifying volunteer position as OPT employment, you are violating your reporting requirements and are subject to removal from the United States.
Additionally, it is important to remember that:
- You should not report a non-qualifying volunteer position as OPT employment in the SEVP Portal.
- Non-qualifying positions do not stop the accrual of unemployment, which is limited to a total of 90 days during OPT.
- If you have been unemployed for more than 90 days, you must leave the United States or be subject to removal, even if you have volunteered while unemployed.
As a note, volunteer positions do not meet the conditions of a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) OPT extension. If you are completing a 24-month STEM OPT extension, you must receive compensation for your training opportunity.
Do you have questions about qualifying OPT employment or accrual of unemployment? Contact your designated school official or the Student and Exchange Visitor Program Response Center.