Optional Practical Training (OPT) gives students a leg up on the H-1B process

Optional Practical Training (OPT) offers foreign college students a chance to work in the United States after receiving their bachelor’s or advanced degree at university. Foreign students on an F-1 visa should speak with their school’s Designated School Representative (DSO) to secure employment related to their studies.  F-1 students should not wait until graduation, but request the OPT program 90 days before the end of the school year, but never later than 60 days after graduation.

Don’t just start with OPT, get your CPT while in school!! 


Basic OPT is limited to 12 months, and the training must be completed within 14 months of graduation.

That’s Right!  If you are just a regular F-1 visa studying Art History, you get 12 months.  But if you are like most F-1 Students, you’re probably majoring in a science area.  The rest is for you!

If you studied Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM), you’re able to get another 24 months of OPT time!!  So if you’re a CPT and reading this, pick up that second major in STEM and stay in the United States.

In order for a STEM graduate to qualify for an additional 24 months of OPT, the following apply:

  • The job must be directly related to your field of study
  • the employer must be enrolled in E-verify
  • Apply 60 days before to 90 days after graduation
  • Help the United States remain globally competitive by attracting the best students in the world!

How to keep you OPT for the full time

  • Talk to your school’s DSO
  • Make sure the job you apply for is directly related to your major
  • Make sure your employer is E-verified by the Department of Labor
  • SEVP-certified school that is accredited (by an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education)
  • Work with your DSO to complete for your “academic training plan”
  • complete form I-983 for your training plan
  • Have your DSO recommend the STEM OPT extension with Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.
  • You and your employer must sign off on the plan on an annual basis
  • do a mid point evaluation during the first 12 months of the extension
  • do a final self-evaluation before concluding the STEM OPT extension

As you notice, one of the steps of your OPT is not to hire an attorney.  Typically, attorneys are not involved in the process.  The student, DSO, employer and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) handle it all.

Now that you know how to go about it, get started!  Create an account with Work Visas Solutions and start building your profile with all the data you need to apply for jobs.  Or you can come back after you have a job to get a head start on the H-1B visa application process.  Cheers!

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