Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Immigration in the US
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a vital component of the United States immigration system, providing international students with the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in their field of study after completing their academic programs in the US.
F-1 visas are issued to international students pursuing academic programs in the US. OPT is a temporary employment benefit granted to eligible F-1 visa holders who completed their higher education in the US. International students who hold an F-1 visa and have completed their higher education in the US are eligible to apply for OPT. OPT allows these international students to work in their chosen field of study for a specific period, typically up to 12 months, with the possibility of a 24-month extension for students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.
To qualify for OPT, international students must have completed their academic programs in the US. Graduates are eligible to apply for OPT up to 90 days before their program end date and within 60 days after the completion of their academic program. Upon approval by the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), international students receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card and this EAD card allows them to work legally in the US during their authorized OPT period.
OPT serves as a bridge between international student status and potential immigration pathways in the US. Many OPT holders use this practical training period to gain professional experience, which can assist them in a future application for the H-1B visa program. The H-1B visa is commonly sought after the completion of OPT and can lead to permanent residency. Some individuals who start their immigration journey on an F-1 visa with OPT eventually transition to green card status, often through employment-based sponsorship.
USCIS has established specific timelines for submitting OPT applications. Failure to meet these deadlines can result in the application being rejected or denied, which can lead to serious consequences, including the loss of the legal status in the US.
The attorneys at Tanner Law Offices can provide guidance not only on OPT but also on potential immigration pathways, helping you make informed decisions about your future in the US. Please contact our office at (717) 731-8114 to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.