I heard that the USCIS does not consider unpaid internships to be employment during the initial OPT period and counts them toward the maximum 90-day unemployment period. …

… I have been working as an intern at a big pharmaceutical company for 3.5 months, and I expect to be hired as a regular, paid employee at the end of my internship in two weeks. Am I in violation of my F-1 status since the period of my unpaid internship exceeds 90 days?


Several months ago, the USCIS did change from its earlier position with regard to unpaid internships, considering them not to be an acceptable form of employment for OPT purposes. This position was in contradiction to the policy guidance issued by Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which lists unpaid internships and volunteering as permissible types of employment during the initial OPT period. However, the USCIS appears to have changed positions once again back to one consistent with the SEVP policy. Specifically, the USCIS reversed itself, at least in several cases that were initially denied based on the determination that an unpaid internship exceeded the maximum unemployment of 90-days and resulted in a violation of F-1 status. Therefore, the current position once again seems to be consistent with the SEVP policy, placing unpaid internships and volunteering on the list of allowable forms of OPT employment. Note, however, that, pursuant to the SEVP policy, any such employment must not be in violation of any labor laws. (10.Jan.2014)

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