5 Things to Know About Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training is the gateway for billions of international students into the United States of America. Many international students apply for their desired university or college to get an education and are likely to get employed under Optional Practical Training.

The United States has a flock of students every year into their various educational institutions to acquire any program or degree. With the help of OPT, many students get the opportunity to reside and even work for a long time in the United States.

The legal authority of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service or USCIS grants the permission and the Terms and Conditions along with the criteria for the OPT candidates wishing to study in the USA.

Optional Practical Training can be chosen by the candidates more than one time and for different programs or degrees. Along with many of that, there is much other information that one should know about Optional Practical Training.

  • Eligibility for OPT 

For applying for OPT Jobs, a student should have an F1 visa that is a student visa permitted by the USCIS. A student with an active F1 visa, which also means, that a student should have a record of one whole academic year in any US-based university or college is eligible for OPT.

A student also should be present in the United States and have an active F1 visa for being eligible for OPT. A student with a graduate degree will get benefits over the students applying for a graduate degree.

A student can only apply for a field in which they wish to work or find employment.  A student cannot apply for the same degree or college under OPT. 

  • Process or procedure

For students looking to apply for optional practical training, they should know all the terms and conditions, and guidelines provided by the USCIS.

For the whole process for optional practical training, it will take around 3 to 5 months.

According to the eligibility, a student should apply for optional practical training around 90 days before the completion of their F1 academic program. A student has to apply for an I-20 request form for Optional practical training.

One also has to pay an amount as the fee for the I-20 form, and as soon as the fee is received, the whole process commences. One can also track their application on the web portal of USCIS.

Student and exchange visitor information service or SEVIS is the accurate portal in which the whole process is done and recorded. A student gets the option to either apply for STEM OPT or non-STEM OPT and there are just a few differences in the process. 

Students also tend to approve their I-765 form for employment authorization document or EAD.

  • Employment under OPT

One of the biggest benefits of the optional practical training program is the employment opportunity after a fixed time. An OPT for one year or so has a fixed timetable of commencing and ending of a program.

For getting the employment opportunities under optional practical training, a student also has to get an employment authorization document or EAD. 

Employment opportunity is based on the program or academic under OPT.

Now, the jobs that are considered as employment under OPT should also be known to the students.

A student can work for 20 hours a week under OPT as a part-timer and even can get paid by the employer. There are many other options available for the students under OPT.

Options like full-time jobs, part-time jobs, unpaid jobs, start-up businesses, third-party hiring, and many others. Post-completion of OPT also provides a time period of 90 days to the students for either to change the job or visa status in the country.

  • STEM OPT Extension

One-year extension under OPT provides time for the STEM students. STEM is a program in the field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Under STEM, a student gets an extension for 24 months and is valid till the post-completion period of their OPT. A student can apply for a higher degree under this extension.

STEM OPT extension is based on the master’s degree or program of a student in the field of STEM. A student also mandatorily needs to submit an I-765 form that is Application for Employment Authorization.

A student can apply for extension 60 days prior to their completion of the academic program under OPT.

Students with a bachelor’s or master’s degree can apply for STEM OPT extension or even apply for an H1B visa with the help of a permanent employer.

  • What to do after the OPT is over

Optional practical training is the opportunity for the students that are aiming to study and work in the United States. But with the limited time period only, a student can complete their education and look for employment.

But, there are situations when students are not able to find suitable jobs or opportunities in their field studies.

When the period of extension begins, it is the final call by the legal authorities of the United States to the candidate to make a decision. The extension period is of about 60 days, under which one has to decide about their future and fill some forms accordingly.

A candidate has few options after the OPT is about to expire or is expired. Most of the candidates choose to apply for an H1B visa or change their status for a longer stay in the country.

Some students can also apply for Optional practical training again with the other degree or program. Even though one has completed once, they should clarify with the legal authorizes of the United States for the eligibility criteria.

One more option is to leave the United States and go back home.

When a visa expires, and one does not make any further arrangements, they have to leave the country. There is no other provision that can take place from the United States after the expiration has been announced. It is thus advised to make arrangements in the extension period or before that.