Planning to study in the US, and keen to find work during or after your degree? Read on for guidance on US work visas for international students, graduates and other immigrants…
Practical training during or after your studies
International students in the US are permitted to work on-campus in the first year of their studies for up to 20 hours per week, and can apply for practical training from their second year. There are two types of practical training – optional (OPT) and curricular (CPT). Both can be completed either during your degree or after graduation, but must not exceed 12 months and must be in a role directly related to your field of study.
When you complete your degree, you’ll have a ‘grace period’ which gives you time to prepare for departure or apply for a new visa. If you intend to stay and seek work in the US, be sure to apply for a change in visa status as soon as possible.
The length of your grace period depends on which US student visa you have. Most international students are F-1 visa holders, and are allowed to stay for up to 60 days following the completion of their course. During this period F1-visa folders can apply for a change of visa status to stay in the country for one year to complete post-graduation practical training.
M-1 and J-1 visa holders can only remain in the country for an additional 30 days after completing their course. If you’re a student with an M-1 visa (for vocational courses) you can also take part in practical training, but can only do so after you have finished your studies.
If you’re a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) student, you might be eligible to extend your practical training period by an additional 24 months, meaning you can stay to work in the US on OPT for up to three years.
To apply for optional practical training, you should:
- Request the required forms from the international department of your university.
- Ask your designated school official (DSO) to endorse your Form I-20 and make the appropriate notation in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
- Complete and file the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), including the relevant fee and supporting documents.
- After the USCIS has approved your Form I-765, you will be sent Form I-766, “Employment Authorization Document” (EAD). You should only start work after receiving your EAD.