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Immigration Issues/How can I work as a volunteer with OPT

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Question
Hi,
I am now a F1 student, and I will graduate in August, I think if I cannot find a job then, can I apply opt if I work as a volunteer for some employer. What's the way to do this? Thank you.

Answer
Eileen Chun-Fruto, Los Angeles immigration attorney writes:

Dear Emily,

Thanks for your question.   You are not alone as I have many F-1 students asking me similar questions.  

If you apply for OPT, you are supposed to be working.  You should check with your school's international student advisor, but I think that you must actually be "employed" with an employer or organization in order for you to maintain your status as an F-1 staying further as an OPT.

There are some new rules regarding how often a person must work on OPT to maintain valid F-1 status.  If you are only volunteering, it may not satisfy that requirement and you would have to worry about falling out of status.  

Good luck and feel free to write back if you have further follow up concerns.

Eileen Chun-Fruto
www.fongandchun.com

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Eileen Chun-Fruto

Expertise

I can answer any employment-based immigration question including questions about PERM labor certifications, H-1B skilled workers, L-1A multinational managers or executives and L-1B specialized knowledge, R-1 and I-360 religious workers, investor cases (E Treaty Trader and E Treaty Investors and EB-5 "million dollar investors") and O-1 extraordinary ability cases. I can also answer any questions regarding family-based immigration, such as adoptions, waiver cases, consular processing (using foreign consulates to enter as an immigrant), marriage and fiance/fiancee cases, 245(i) cases, VAWA (Violence Against Women's Act), battered spouses, and Child Status Protection Act (CSPA).

Experience

I have over 12 years of experience in business and family immigration. I was a former law clerk for the Executive Officer for Immigration Review (the immigration courts) in San Francisco and I current serve as the California Service Center's (CSC) liaison on behalf of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. I represent individuals and corporations alike, ranging from professionals in the high tech, science, liberal arts fields. I have a special niche in working with start-up companies and individuals with more complex immigration issues.

Organizations
Member, American Immigration Lawyers Association Member, Los Angeles County Bar Association, Executive Committee on Immigration

Education/Credentials
J.D., University of California at Davis - King Hall School of Law (1997) B.A., University of California at Irvine, cum laude (1994)

Awards and Honors
2005, 2006, 2007, 2008: Selected to Southern California Rising Star - Super Lawyers List (an honor shared by no more than 2.5% of the attorneys practicing in the entire Southern California region) Faculty/Moderator on various AILA and LACBA continuing legal education seminars in the following topics: H-1B, O-1, religious workers, business immigration visas

Past/Present Clients
My typical business clients can range from a start-up company, established engineering and software research and development companies, manufacturing, trade and distribution companies, public and private schools, and religious organizations. Family clients include spouses, parent-child petitions, siblings, naturalization, and most especially, representation of abandoned and neglected children viewed as orphans under the immigration law. I have represented many clients who relied on special provisions of the immigration law to preserve or "grandfather" benefits to family members in limited (and complicated) circumstances, to avoid re-application fees and longer waiting times.

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