Studying in the United States is a dream for many international students, but for some, the desire to stay and work in the U.S. after graduation is equally compelling. Fortunately, there are visa options that allow international students to transition from their student status to working in the United States. In this blog, we’ll explore the requirements for obtaining a visa for international students to work in the United States after completing their studies.
- Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is one of the primary avenues for international students to gain work experience in the United States after graduation. Here are the key requirements for obtaining OPT:
- Eligibility: You must have maintained F-1 student status and be in good academic standing. Most students are eligible for up to 12 months of OPT, but students in certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields may be eligible for a 24-month extension.
- Application Process: You must apply for OPT through your designated school official (DSO) and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before you can start working.
- Job Offer: While not required to apply for OPT, you will need to find employment related to your field of study to start working under OPT. You have a limited period to secure employment once your OPT begins.
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is another option for international students seeking work experience in their field of study. Here are the key requirements for obtaining CPT:
- Eligibility: To be eligible for CPT, your school must authorize your participation, and the work must be an integral part of your curriculum.
- Application Process: You’ll need to obtain the necessary authorization from your DSO before engaging in any CPT employment.
- Duration: Unlike OPT, CPT can be full-time or part-time, and there is no limit to the duration if you meet the eligibility criteria.
- H-1B Visa
The H-1B visa is an employment-based visa that allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations. To be eligible for an H-1B visa, international students typically need:
- A job offer from a U.S. employer.
- A bachelor’s degree or higher in a related field.
- An employer willing to sponsor the H-1B petition.
The H-1B visa is subject to an annual cap, so it’s essential to apply early and ensure that your employer meets the requirements.
- Optional Post-Completion Practical Training (OPT STEM Extension)
International students in STEM fields can extend their OPT period by an additional 24 months through the OPT STEM Extension program. To qualify for this extension, you must:
- Have completed a degree in a STEM field.
- Be employed by an E-Verify participating employer.
- Submit an application for the STEM extension before your initial OPT expires.
Obtaining a visa to work in the United States after graduation is an exciting opportunity for international students to gain valuable experience and contribute to the U.S. workforce. Understanding the specific requirements for each visa category, maintaining your student status, and adhering to application timelines are crucial steps in the process. Be sure to consult with your designated school official (DSO) and consider seeking legal advice when navigating the complexities of U.S. immigration laws. With proper planning and preparation, international students can successfully transition from their student status to a fulfilling career in the United States.