Moore & Van Allen Law Firm, Attorneys

F-1: STUDENTS & RECENT GRADUATES

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F-1: STUDENTS & RECENT GRADUATES

Businesses frequently seek to employ students pursuing a full‑time course of studies in the United States or students who have recently graduated from a U.S. college or university.  Students in the U.S. in F‑1 visa status have several options to obtain permission to work.

Optional Practical Training (“OPT”)

As part of the F-1 program, students are eligible for 12 months of OPT. This time may be used post-graduation or during their academic program provided they have been enrolled in school for at least 9 months. To request OPT, the student must be currently enrolled as a full-time student or within 60 days of graduation and they must intend to be employed in a field of work related to their academic studies.

The process for obtaining the OPT begins with the student requesting an updated Form I-20 from school annotated for work authorization. The student then applies to USCIS for employment authorization (EAD card). The standard EAD processing time is several months and the student cannot begin work until the card is issued.

Curricular Practical Training (“CPT”)

Curricular Practical Training is for employment during the student’s program such as internships or co-op training. CPT can only be issued while student is in their academic program and is not available post-graduation. To request CPT, the student must: be currently enrolled as a full-time student; have been enrolled for at least 9 months; and intend to be employed in a field of work related to their academic studies.

CPT is issued by the academic institution and does not require an EAD. Therefore the student must meet the school’s requirements for approval and obtain an updated Form I-20 before starting employment. CPT can be part-time or full-time employment; however 12 months of full-time CPT renders student ineligible for their 12 months of OPT as explained above.

STEM OPT Extension

This OPT extension provides a 24-month extension of OPT for F-1 students who have received a Bachelor’s or advanced degree from a U.S. university/college in a Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) field. To qualify for this extension, the student must intend to pursue practical training in their STEM field, and the intended employment must be with a U.S. employer enrolled in E-Verify (USCIS’s employment eligibility verification program).

As with the 12-month OPT program mentioned above, F-1 students must apply for and receive an EAD from USCIS to participate in STEM OPT.