Career Tips for International Students

Find an OPT Job In a Tough Job Market [2023]

To learn more about job search strategy for F-1 international students (Find an OPT job, CPT job or H-1 job), visit

I just received a message from an international student whose OPT will begin in less than a month and have only 90 days of unemployment to stay in the U.S.  The student asked if I could help them because they’ve applied to multiple job postings online but haven’t received any interview invitations. The student is feeling discouraged due to news of layoffs and hiring freezes, and they don’t know what action to take to find an OPT job. 


If you or someone you know is in a similar situation, here are some actionable steps that can be taken to search for an OPT job opportunity within a short period of time.

Firstly, it’s important to ensure that you don’t exceed the OPT 90-day unemployment allowance without a job offer in place and risk losing your F-1 status. 

So you’re probably wondering about the 90-day unemployment allowance and how it works.


Optional Practical Training or OPT means F-1 students’ work authorization to work off-campus.

your work authorization after your graduation is called a Post-Completion OPT


Say you already graduated and you are eligible for OPT. You’ll have a limited time to be unemployed when your OPT starts.

For post-completion OPT, you have 90 days of unemployment, and for STEM OPT, you have 90 days plus an additional 60 days during the 24-month STEM OPT extension period. It’s important to note that this 90-day unemployment period counts both weekdays and weekends. 


Even if you travel outside the US, your time spent outside the country will still count as unemployment

However, don’t worry, there are options available to you if you’re in your first year of OPT. If this is your first year OPT, Did you know that the term “employed” is not as specific as you might think? 


Whether it’s a paid or unpaid job, finding a job related to your course of study can help stop the 90-day unemployment allowance clock. 

Don’t forget to reach out to your International Student Services Office at your college or university to ensure that the job is compatible with your OPT.

If you are under a time crush, it’s worth considering options such as temporary jobs or volunteering positions that will allow you to remain in the country. 

The requirement is that the work must be at least 20 hours per week. Just be sure to check with your International Student Services office to ensure that you are eligible for these options.


It can be tough for students to find jobs within three months, and without connections and a personal coach, your search time may extend to an average of five to six months. Therefore, it’s important to maintain your status with a backup plan and continue your full-time job search.

In short, if your OPT is about to start, please develop a backup plan and find options that allow you to stay past the 90-day unemployment allowance period. 

Also, It’s a smart move to hold onto your OPT unemployment allowance time for unexpected situations like losing your job or transitioning between jobs. 

This way, you’ll have a safety net to fall back on when you need it most. It’s better to have a backup plan in place, just in case.


Remember to keep your International Student Services office in the loop and explore all options, including part-time work, temporary jobs, and volunteering positions. 


With these strategies in mind, you can increase your chances of finding employment and maintaining your legal status in the U.S. Now that we have talked about the importance of not exceeding the OPT 90-day unemployment allowance, let’s focus on the steps you can take to build your career brand and increase your chances of finding employment.


Let’s listen to this episode and let me know if you have any questions.

Think Big & Live Your Dream!

Coach Kwan


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