If more than just an ambition of studying, International students look forward to work in the USA. And so they apply for the OPT status to be allowed to work. Sometimes, the EAD is received after the start date you mentioned in your application. In case OPT approved after start date, the EAD will have a later OPT start date and you can start working from the new start date. One cannot work until the EAD is received whether it’s their start date. There are strict rules that state one may not work in the USA randomly.
With the increasing quality of education, jobs, and living standards, many students find this space more comfortable than their native countries. While normally a student can’t work in the USA, with the practice of work authorizations, they can work in the USA for the purpose of gaining practical experience in their major field of study. While this may seem as working, it is, in fact, a provision to experience their theories in practice. Even this practice of working to learn requires specific work authorizations.
What are the work authorizations available under F-1 Visa?
International Students and other foreign workers who wish to work in the USA need to apply for the work authorization in USA. Working without work authorization can lead to severe circumstances, inclusive of termination and even deportation. In case of deportation you may never be allowed to enter the United States ever again. The USA government is very strict in these matters due to the reason that people from all over the world want to live in this country due to the technical advancement and good lifestyle.
This in turn disturbs the market for the existing US citizens due to which the government accepts only those people – including students under F-1 visa – who can provide a positive contribution to the country and its people. The government prevents the people who can be a drain on the resources of the country without any positive addition to its socio-economic environment.
If we talk about F1 visa, the available work authorizations are OPT, CPT, and on-campus employment. If you are enrolled in a STEM subject, you may apply for a STEM OPT extension and continue working after the tenure of OPT employment is over.
What is OPT?
OPT is Optional Practical Training. It is a work authorization provided to a student in F1 visa status. Under OPT work authorization, a student is allowed to work up to 12 months. The main criteria is you must be working in a field that is directly connected to your major area of study.
Optional Practical Training is a privileged permit for international students who arrived under the F1 visa category. Students get relevant job offers from employers who are looking to hire in the same field. The students will get the most relevant job offers from employers based on their visa status, educational qualification, professional experience, and skills. Though under OPT the international students can find pre-completion or post-completion. During pre-completion, they can work for 20 hours per week. At post-completion can work full-time, in the Major area of their education. Employers can offer various kinds of employment to OPT students such as full-time, part-time, contractual, and short-term hire. Sometimes recruiters might or might not offer wages, or compensation for services.
International students can only be employed if their application is approved by DSO. The Designated School Officer will forward the application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The USCIS will approve the application and the OPT students will get the Employment Authorization Document. Without an EAD the students cannot be allowed to work.
OPT Approved After Start Date
While it is possible that your start date is passed while your OPT EAD wasn’t yet approved, you must know what happens when your OPT is approved after start date. It is not necessary that you will be approved before the start date you requested.
In such a case scenario, there can be a chance that your OPT start date is not the same as the start date on EAD. Your approved start date will appear on your EAD card which can be later than your requested start date, depending on when you apply for OPT and how long it takes USCIS to approve it.
You cannot begin working until your approved EAD start date, regardless of the requested date on your I-20. If you start your job before the date given on OPT EAD, it will cause a legal issue. This might also cause your visa to be terminated and you permanently being deported from the States.
- Can I work on the start date I choose? Or Do I need to wait until I get OPT? Source
You can start work only after you have received your OPT card and during the dates indicated on the card.
The start date you choose may or may not be the start date for your OPT. If it is approved after the date you request, then your start date will be a later date.
- What happens if my OPT is approved after the start date I requested on my I-20? Source
Generally, USCIS will adjust the start date on your EAD card to the date that USCIS approved your OPT.
Regardless of when you are approved, F-1 regulations limit the extension of your OPT end date to 14 months after your program end date.
- What if USCIS Processes My OPT Application After My Grace Period Expires? Will That Cause Me To Lose OPT Time? Source
Yes. Though you can remain in the U.S. while your OPT is pending, even beyond the expiry of your grace period. The United States government is friendly towards students studying in their country. In most situations the government supports them if they desire to work in the country after completing their studies. This is the reason that these students are allowed to remain in the US even after their grace period is over while their OPT is pending.
Example: If your completion date is May 19, your grace period expires July 18, and you chose a start date of July 18 for OPT. If USCIS approves your petition on August 19, you will have lost 30 days of OPT time, leaving you with an approved period of 11 months of OPT time.
The Things to be Considered for OPT
When to apply
There are time restrictions to be followed while applying for OPT. They are:
- You are allowed to apply for OPT a maximum of 90 days before your course completion date and a minimum of 60 days after your course completion date.
- Your package, with all the documents, must reach USCIS within 60 days after your course completion.
Traveling while OPT is pending
It is not a problem legally to travel while your OPT application is being processed. The issue lies in certain requests that might require your physical presence.
Also, you need to have your documents in hand while re-entering the United States. This is because F-1 is valid only for the academic period. While after your graduation, for your to renter you would need to show OPT EAD or the request of processing OPT.
Keep the below things in mind while traveling with a pending OPT application:
- See to it that someone is present in your stead to receive and convey the information regarding the package that arrives from USCIS in your absence.
- In the case of an OPT RFE (Request For Evidence), you need to take action within a limited period of time.
- In the case of approval, you need to arrange for the EAD card to reach you for easily re-entering the USA.
- If your OPT application gets rejected, then you won’t be able to get back into the USA using an F-1 visa anymore.
- If your visa has expired, you must go for a re-application for an F-1 visa, providing OPT EAD and proof of employment as the major documents.
- Keep track of the OPT proceeding via an online link. This is possible after you make an account with USCIS.
While F-1 Visa only provides you an opportunity to study in the USA, it is also the gateway to settling in the USA. This article just gives a basic insight into OPT work authorization. While there are many such opportunities in the USA to work, how well you grab it and work upon it depends on you at the end of the day.
- OPT students can get an EAD after their application is approved by USCIS.
- They have to abide by the rules of the USCIS.
- They can only work in the Major area of their education and not otherwise.
- The OPT students can choose pre-completion and post-completion OPT. there is a variety of work and employment opportunities associated with one field. They have to choose the decent one.