Are you a student who has come to the US to pursue your higher education in the country's prestigious academic institutions? If you are, you are not alone. Higher education in the USA is a common dream shared by millions of students around the globe. Every academic year, colleges and universities across the United States churn out millions of graduates in various academic fields. For such graduates, the US government gives the option of choosing OPT.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a period for foreign graduates like yourself to gain valuable hands-on experience, hone their skills, and begin contributing to the US. The core component of OPT, however, is that it is optional or recommended rather than a mandatory requirement imposed by educational institutions.
OPT is explicitly open for the vast majority of international students enrolled under the F1 visa program. During this OPT period, students who have completed or are still pursuing their degrees for more than nine months can get training related to their area of study.
So, if you are a college graduate in the US, what does it take to make you eligible to apply for OPT? Under OPT's eligibility criteria, you are expected to:
If you fulfill the above-mentioned criteria, you are eligible for:
Moreover, if you are a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) graduate with a valid F-1 visa, you are eligible for a 17-month extension for post-graduate completion of OPT employment.
When you know about OPT, it is also important to know about the various job options you are entitled to.
Generally, OPT is split into two types:
Paid employment criteria
Whether you belong to either category, your first option would be to look out for paid employment instead of unpaid employment. So, what are the OPT criteria for paid employment?
Pre-completion OPT does allow you to have a paid job. However, the main use of OPT is the right to work for 12 months AFTER you graduate. Therefore, as a student, you can apply for OPT as you near your graduation. Applying for OPT allows you to work for any employer in the US (subject to OPT rules).
And that's not all. You can also apply for a fresh OPT for every new academic degree you complete. If you are successful in acquiring a job while on OPT, you must adhere to the following rules:
Do not forget that your OPT period commences on the start date printed on your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
Unpaid employment criteria
While on OPT, you may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern if there is no violation of any labor laws. Volunteering and unpaid internships will qualify as OPT employment for reporting purposes, as long as they meet all the necessary criteria.
Now come the most important details you ought to know about OPT- the application process and your responsibilities. Here goes!
OPT application is a two-step process. Firstly, you must obtain a recommendation from the Office of International Affairs (OIA), Form I-20 showing that you requested OPT.
Secondly, you must send your OPT application to the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). However, you have some tasks to complete before commencing the application process. As per the rules, you are required to do the following before you apply:
Failing to do either and failing to view the web page's information could lead to application errors. In turn, this could result in delays in processing your request. Above all, it will negatively impact your application to the USCIS.
If you are looking to apply for Pre-Completion OPT, you must:
You can also apply before you complete your first year of study. However, you cannot start working until after completing three-quarters of full-time enrollment.
If Post-Completion OPT is your choice, you must do the following:
You will lose your OPT eligibility if you:
Once you have successfully obtained OPT, you must remember to fulfill the following responsibilities:
Here are some important points to keep in mind during the approved OPT period:
CPT stands for Curricular Practical Training. Having a CPT status allows international students with an F-1 visa to gain work experience. You can choose to do jobs, paid internship programs, or training related to your academic field. You can also choose between unpaid internships and cooperative education, an established curriculum.
As per the rules, you must complete CPT before graduating. While doing CPT, you can choose to do it part-time (20 or fewer hours per week) or full-time (20 or more hours per week).
So, how does CPT differ from OPT?
OPT and CPT differ mainly in the period of eligibility for these programs and the type of work you are allowed to do.
Graduating from top universities and working for leading employers are two aspects that bring hoards of students to the US. However, immigration can be a big challenge with the complex rules and regulations for foreigners. But do not fret! TechFetch OPT is armed with years of experience and expertise to make your OPT process smooth and hassle-free.
Get in touch with us today, and let's sort out the details.