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Can students work on an F-1 Visa?

Once a foreign student with a student visa has completed their academic program, the student is eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT allows a student to obtain paid or unpaid temporary employment that is directly related to the student’s major area of study. The OPT program provides students the ability to gain valuable work experience, remain in the U.S. for 12-24 months beyond the completion of their academic program and potential eligibility for certain students for some employment based visas. Some students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from U.S. institutions may extend their STEM OPT period by 24 months after their initial 12 month OPT period.

How do you apply for OPT?

The Student must start the process of obtaining OPT by requesting the Designated School Official (DSO) at their academic institution to recommend OPT. Once the DSO makes the proper endorsement and notations in the student tracking system, the student can apply for employment authorization with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The student may begin engaging in OPT only after an application has been approved and an Employment Authorization Document has been issued.

Helpful tips regarding OPT

  1. A job offer is not required to apply for OPT.
  2. A student can have multiple employers and even several short term projects as long as the employment directly relates to their major area of study.
  3. OPT status also allows a student to open their own business and be self employed.
  4. The maximum period of unemployment after having been granted OPT is 90 days.
  5. Because OPT is a training program there is no set salary requirement and the employment can consist of an unpaid internship or can be compensated with a stipend but otherwise the employer must still comply with federal and state labor laws.
  6. OPT is available for 12 months at each education level. For example, a student can obtain 12 month of OPT at the bachelor’s degree level and another 12 months of OPT at the master’s degree level.
  7. To qualify for the STEM OPT extension program the employer must use the E-verify program.

Don’t jeopardize your immigration status

There are important filing deadlines relating to OPT and additional regulations that an F-1 student or J-1 student must follow. Our office can assist you with obtaining OPT status while protecting your eligibility for other potential immigration benefits in the future. Violation of your student visa or OPT status or failure to file the proper paperwork can result in negative consequences to your immigration status. Our office can provide you with an individualized assessment of your case to determine if you also qualify for any additional immigration benefits or employment visas such as: H-1B visa, Eb-2, Eb-3, E-2, H-2B visa, TN visa, O visa etc.