Are you a student with a burning desire to pursue higher education in the USA based on your extraordinary academic track record? If yes, then be ready to take the next step forward in your plan with the help of useful information mentioned in this blog post.
The decision of studying in a country that grants various rights to citizens, immigrant visa holders, and non-immigrant visa holders is perhaps the best decision of your life. But, this decision must be backed by sufficient research and prudent thinking. You should acquaint yourself with the latest rules and procedures related to an F1 student visa, OPT jobs for international students.
We have discussed relevant details on these aspects in different sections of this post to expand your understanding and facilitate informed decision-making.
What is F1 Student Visa?
An F1 student visa allows international students to get enrolled in academic or English language training programs in the educational institutions approved by SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program). The F1 student visa is classified under non-immigrant visa classes.
You must secure admission in a university and produce necessary proofs to apply for the visa. Although being primarily a student visa in nature, an F1 visa enables students to explore employment opportunities as well. You can opt for on-campus or off-campus employment depending on your preferences.
While availing on-campus jobs does not require obtaining permission from the university’s International Student Office in all cases, off-campus jobs certainly mandate the receipt of Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).
Who Should Go for F1 OPT authorization?
OPT, which stands for Optional Practical Training, can be undertaken by F1 visa holders as a means to acquire experience and earn money. However, you can also become a part of internship programs or volunteering activities that do not result in income generation for you. Working with F1 OPT status is considered as off-campus employment, and so, you need to get permission from both the International Student Office and USCIS.
While checking out OPT jobs for international students, you must ensure that your job role is linked to your major. The maximum duration for which students can engage in OPT jobs is 12 months. Students participating in academic programs that can be categorized under STEM, i.e., Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields get an extended period of 24 months for performing OPT jobs.
You are deemed to have an F1 OPT visa as soon as you secure an OPT job and obtain necessary approvals. So, you can start working in accordance with the visa policy and the terms of employment. To apply for OPT, you should have completed at least 9 months in your program. But you can kick off your job only after completing 1 year of enrollment at the university. You must maintain a lawful F1 status throughout your stay in the US.
What are Pre-Completion OPT and Post-Completion OPT?
The entire duration for which you are considered as eligible for OPT jobs can be divided into various time periods before and after the completion of your studies. Thus, OPT employment is classified into pre-completion and post-completion OPT. However, you can also consume the whole period of 12 months during your studies, i.e., before the completion of your course or program (pre-completion OPT).
You can even choose to take an OPT job only after completion of your studies (post-completion OPT). In each case, the duration cannot extend 12 months. Therefore, a calculation is carried out to determine the remaining period of your OPT eligibility when you engage in both pre-completion and post-completion OPT. For example, if you have worked for 3 months during your studies, you can work for only 9 months after completing your studies.
Now, the regulations governing OPT jobs further classify the OPT employment into part-time OPT jobs and full-time OPT jobs for international students. As per the guidelines, you cannot work for more than 20 hours a week (part-time) when your school is in session. But during breaks and vacations, you can exceed this time limit and work full time. 6 months of work on a part-time OPT job will be considered as 3 months of full-time OPT employment.
In your post-completion OPT endeavors, you have to work for at least 20 hours a week. You can work for multiple employers during both pre-employment and post-employment OPT.
F1 OPT Visa: The Current Scenario
Optional practical training as you know it today is an outcome of regulations formulated by the concerned authorities in the US government throughout the years. In the beginning (In the 1950s), the international students were allowed to work for 6 months with the purpose of receiving practical training. This duration could be extended for two additional 6-month periods only when it is proved that training requires more time.
With time, various rules were implemented for modifying the definition of training or employment pursued by the foreigners studying in the U.S. educational institutions. A few of the major changes in the rules were allowing the students to live in the USA for 60 days after graduation and extending the OPT duration of students enrolled in STEM fields by 24 months.
While OPT is a quite beneficial program for international students willing to attain education in the prestigious universities of the USA, some entities express their opposition against it on the grounds that it creates a disadvantage in the form of reduced opportunities for native Americans.
Trump Administration’s Views on OPT
Ever since Donald Trump has taken charge of the presidency of the USA, various immigration programs and policies have come under scrutiny. Changes were proposed for H1-B visa rules to decrease the number of foreigners employed in the USA. The F1 work permit has not remained unnoticed by the government officials. Therefore, discussions were going on to end the optional practical training (OPT) program.
Current Issues affecting OPT
The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech) filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2014. The suit was regarding the extension of 17 months granted to STEM students for their OPT by the George W. Bush administration in the year 2008. As a result, the rules were examined and the extension for STEM OPT was changed from 17 months to 24 months in 2016.
Agitated by the decision, WashTech went back to court for challenging not just the extension for STEM students but the entire OPT program. The suit is filed on the argument that the OPT program was formed without the authorization by Congress. In the year 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia allowed the case to proceed. Meanwhile, the court had also asked various parties (employers, universities, and associations) to submit amicus briefs for defending OPT.
Amidst all opposition, OPT jobs are in high demand as they provide international students with a way of gaining important skills relevant to their field of study.
Scope of OPT jobs for international students in 2020
The earnings made from student visa and college tuition fees play a significant part in the economy of the United States. Moreover, students accepting OPT jobs represent a considerable portion of the US workforce. Therefore, it’s not likely that optional practical training (OPT) program will be eliminated anytime soon. An increasing number of employers hire international students on OPT jobs every year.
So, even in the year 2020, you can land an attractive OPT job offer whether you are a student of a STEM or a NON-STEM field.
Being an international student in the USA, you might want to learn more about the culture of the country or explore the growth options for your career. Optional practical training or OPT is a wonderful way of achieving various objectives during or after studies. If you have a dream of studying in the USA, don’t let rumors destroy it. Take any decision based on the news provided by only trustworthy sources.
On the, you can search for OPT jobs in a wide range of industries. You can also read blog posts on the latest news regarding F1 student visas, and other related topics on this website.
Max Troy is the Career Counsellor as well as a passionate Author. Well, he has years of experience in the Career and Jobs industry. As a part of his career at OPTnation, he helped various OPT and CPT candidates to shape their Career. Through his knowledge and writing skill, he is contributing to the students to find the best Career advice and immigration topics. Do share the information if you like it.