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Optional Practical Training (OPT) – Complete Guide

Here's everything you need to know about the OPT visa.


If you are an international student in the United States on a student visa, you may be eligible for a type of work authorization called Optional Practical Training (OPT). This article will explain what OPT is, how to apply for it, and what benefits it can offer.

What is the OPT visa?

The OPT visa is a type of visa that allows foreign students to stay in the United States and work for up to 12 months after graduation. The OPT visa is an Optional Practical Training (OPT) program that is authorized by the United States government.

The program allows foreign students who have graduated from a U.S. college or university to stay in the United States and work for up to 12 months. The OPT visa is a great way for foreign students to gain experience in their field of study and to improve their English language skills.

How to apply for the OPT visa

The OPT visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows foreign students to stay in the United States after they graduate from college.

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To apply for an OPT visa, applicants must first complete the online application form and submit it to the US Department of Homeland Security. After the form is reviewed, applicants will be asked to provide additional documentation, including proof of their identity, financial resources, and educational qualifications.

Once all of the required documentation has been submitted, applicants will be interviewed by a US consular officer. If the applicant is approved for the OPT visa, they will be issued a visa stamp in their passport which will allow them to enter the United States.

OPT Application Process

1. Talk to your DSO about your plans to apply for OPT
2. Submit a completed I-20 with the OPT recommendation to USCIS
3. Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee
4. Receive your EAD card from USCIS
5. Find a job
6. Start working!

Documents Required for OPT Visa Application

There are a few documents that are required for an OPT visa application. These include:

1. A completed visa application form

2. A passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the applicant’s period of stay in the United States

3. One passport-style photograph

4. A copy of the applicant’s Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status”

5. Evidence of financial support

6. A copy of the applicant’s most recent F-1 visa

7. A copy of the applicant’s most recent I-94 card, if available

What are the requirements for the OPT visa?

The requirements for the OPT visa are that the applicant must have a valid passport, a nonimmigrant visa, and a job offer from a U.S. employer.

What are the benefits of the OPT visa?

The OPT visa allows foreign students to gain up to 12 months of work experience in the United States in their field of study. This work experience can be used to help students transition into professional careers after graduation. The OPT visa also allows students to remain in the United States for an additional 24 months if they enroll in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) degree program.

How long does the OPT visa last?

The OPT visa lasts for 12 months.

What are the restrictions of the OPT visa?

There are a few restrictions of the OPT visa. First, you can only work for 20 hours per week while school is in session. Second, you can only work for 40 hours per week during breaks and holidays. Finally, you can only work for a total of 12 months.

How to renew the OPT visa

If you want to renew your OPT visa, you will need to submit the following documents to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

A completed I-765 form, which you can get from the USCIS website.

The filing fee for the I-765 form, which is currently $410.

Your EAD card.

Evidence that you are still in F-1 status, such as your I-20 form.

Your most recent transcripts from your school.

A letter from your employer that states your job offer and the dates of your employment.

Proof of your previous work experience, if you are applying for a STEM extension.

If you are applying for a STEM extension, you will also need to submit a completed I-983 form.

OPT vs. Practical Training

OPT is a 12-month work authorization for F-1 students who have completed or will complete their degree before the work authorization expires. OPT allows you to work in your field of study and gain practical experience in the United States.

Practical Training is a 12-month work authorization available to F-1 students during their degree program. Practical Training can be used either prior to graduation or after graduation.

Eligibility

To be eligible for OPT, you must:

  • Complete your degree
  • Have been enrolled full-time for one academic year
  • Be in F-1 status
  • Have an offer of employment related to your field of study

To be eligible for Practical Training, you must:

  • Be enrolled full-time for at least one academic year
  • Be in F-1 status
  • Have an offer of employment related to your field of study

Work Authorization

OPT: You can begin working on the first day of your OPT period. You can work for more than one employer, but each employer must submit an EAD form to USCIS. You can work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time when school is not in session.

The Rules and Reporting Requirements of OPT

There are a few reporting requirements for students on OPT. These include:

  • Reporting any changes in your address or employer information to your DSO within 10 days
  • Completing an annual evaluation with your DSO
  • Maintaining a valid passport
  • Carrying your EAD card at all times
  • Working only at the job listed on your EAD card
  • Working no more than 20 hours per week while school is in session
  • Working full-time during vacation periods and holidays

The Different Types of OPT

There are two types of OPT: pre-completion OPT and post-completion OPT.

Pre-completion OPT is OPT that is completed before a student completes their degree, while post-completion OPT is OPT that is completed after a student has already graduated.

How to Apply for OPT

You may begin the process for applying for OPT by reading the instructions on the OIS website. After you have read the information, please schedule an appointment with your OIS advisor to discuss your eligibility and application process. We will need to confirm that you are eligible to receive OPT, and we will help you complete the necessary paperwork.

OPT Basics

OPT allows F-1 students to gain up to one year of practical experience in their field of study. Students are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session and full time during vacation periods. Please note that students in pre-completion OPT must be enrolled full time to qualify.

OPT is approved for one year at a time, but if a student’s degree requires more than one year of study to complete, they may be eligible for a second year of OPT. The second year of OPT is called STEM OPT. To learn more about STEM OPT, visit the OIS website.

OPT can be used before or after graduation. Pre-completion OPT may only be used while a student is enrolled in school. Post-completion OPT may be used after graduation.

The Pitfalls of OPT

There are a few potential pitfalls associated with OPT. First, if a student does not find employment within their field of study, they may be forced to leave the country. Additionally, OPT is only available for a limited time, so students must be sure to make the most of it. Finally, students on OPT are not eligible for certain benefits, such as health insurance, that are available to other visa holders.

Can you travel while on OPT?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a period of time during which certain students who have been studying in the United States on F-1 visas are able to work in the country. This can be a great opportunity for students to gain experience in their field and earn some money while they are studying.

However, there are some restrictions on OPT, and it is important to know what they are before you begin the process. One restriction is that you can only work for a total of 12 months during your OPT period. This includes any work you may have done before you began your OPT, as well as any internships or other work you may do during your OPT period.

If you work more than 12 months, you will be considered to be out of status and will need to leave the United States. Another restriction is that you can only work for 20 hours per week while school is in session. This means that you will need to find a job that allows you to work fewer hours during the school year. You can work full-time during breaks, but you will need to be careful not to exceed the 12-month limit.

Finally, you can only work for a specific employer during your OPT period. If you want to change employers, you will need to get permission from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

If you are eligible for OPT and you want to begin the process of applying, please contact the OIS advisor at your school. We will be happy to help you get started and to answer any questions you may have about the application process.

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