STUDENTS CAN WORK OFF CAMPUS IN THE US UNDER OPT PROGRAM
US Job rules for F1 students under OPT program
Foreign Students in the US on F1 Student Visa are allowed to work off-campus in Optional Practical Training program both during and after completion of their degree. Rules set up by the USCIS govern the implementation of OPT. All the jobs under Optional Practical Training need prior authorization from the US Immigration Department and also from the school's foreign student office as well.
You could apply for OPT after being admitted for a minimum period of nine months, but a student on F-1 visa could not start doing the job until they got their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the Immigration Department and you have admitted for a period of minimum one year. You don't require having an employment offer to apply for your OPT EAD, and your Optional Practical Training job could occur anywhere in the US.
US Immigration takes up around three months to process your application and everything you do while staying in the US, permission is required to maintain your F-1 status and your foreign student office is there to assist you in maintaining that status throughout your stay in the US.
[Read More: Expert Tips to Get USA F1 Visa]
Types of Optional Practical Training
All OPT should be directly related to the student's key area of education. Students who Study in United States might participate in Optional Practical Training in two ways and they are as follows:
- Pre-completion OPT: Students on F-1 visa might apply to participate in pre-completion Optional Practical Training after they have admitted to the college for one full education year. Students who are authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT should work part-time while college is in session. They might work for a full-time duration when their college is not in session.
- Post-completion OPT: Students on F-1 visa might apply to participate in post-completion Optional Practical Training after concluding their education. Students who are authorized for post-completion OPT might work for a part-time duration (minimum 20 hours per week) or full-time.
Extension of STEM OPT:
Students who Study in US and have earned degrees in STEM fields might apply for a two-year extension of their post-completion OPT job authorization if they are got STEM degree and are employed by an employer enrolled in E-Verify and got an initial grant of post-completion Optional Practical Training job authorization based on their STEM degree.
Basic OPT Requirements
- Job should be directly related to the student's major
- Student should maintain legal F-1 status
- Student should apply for Optional Practical Training prior completion of their degree
- Students who are engaged in a year or full-time CPT program are not eligible for an Optional Practical Training program.
OPT before completing graduation:
- Students should be admitted in a school for full-time duration
- Students might only work 20 hours per week during academic session
- Students might work full-time during summer and breaks
- Student might work full-time after completion of entire coursework
OPT after completing graduation:
- After completing your degree, Optional Practical Training work should be full-time (40 hours per week)
- All Optional Practical Training should be completed within one year and two months after completing your degree
- Applications for post-completion Optional Practical Training should be received by USCIS before completion of the degree
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How to apply for Optional Practical Training?
If you are studying in US on F-1 visa and want to apply for OPT, you should do the following:
- Request your school officer (DSO) at your educational institution to recommend the OPT. Your DSO would make the recommendation by endorsing your form I-20 and making the proper notation in the SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System).
- You should properly file the form I-765, with the US immigration department along with the fee and supporting documents as mentioned in the form.
When to apply for Optional Practical Training
If you are applying based on a STEM degree for pre-completion OPT then you should apply within a month of your DSO entering the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record and you might also apply up to three months prior you conclude a full education year, as long as you don't begin OPT job until you conclude one entire educational year.
If you are applying based on a STEM degree for initial post-completion OPT then you should apply within a month of your DSO entering the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record and you might apply up to three months prior you conclude your degree, but not later than two months after you conclude your degree.
If you are applying based on a Non-STEM degree for pre-completion OPT then you should apply within a month of your DSO entering the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record and you might also apply up-to three months prior you conclude a full education year, as long as you don't begin OPT job until you conclude one entire educational year.
If you are applying based on a Non-STEM degree for initial post-completion OPT then you should apply within a month of your DSO entering the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record and you might apply up-to three months prior you conclude your degree, but not later than two months after you conclude your degree.
You might start your Optional Practical Training only after getting approval from USCIS for your Form I-765 and you get your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
Optional Practical Training Application Steps
Applying for an Optional Practical Training program is a technical process. Your foreign student advisor or somebody within the foreign student center would assist you through the process of OPT application. Here are basic steps you need to follow while applying for OPT program.
I-765 Form: This is the key application for job authorization that has to be submitted to the USCIS, once your school has approved.
OPT Recommendation Form: Typically your school would have to require OPT recommendation form.
Filing Fee: You would require a fresh fee every time you file for an EAD. You could use a personal check or money order which is payable to US DHS. Don't forget to write your date of birth and SEVIS ID number on the front of the check.
Two passport size photos:Two color photos were taken within a month of filing your application.
Copies of Documents: You would require copies of your form I-94, EAD card, current I-20 and a copy of your passport ID page.
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