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All About Work Visa After Study in the USA

All About Work Visa After Study in the USA
Alpina ChariOct 23, 2023

All About Work Visa After Study in the USA

The USA is a popular destination for international students who want to pursue higher education and career opportunities. According to the latest statistics, more than one million international students were studying in the US in the academic year 2021/22. The US attracts students from all over the world with its excellent universities, great cities, diverse cultures, and innovative industries. Many of these students also wish to stay back in the US after completing their studies, as they see the potential for personal and professional growth in the land of opportunities. However, staying in the US legally after graduation is not an easy task, as it requires obtaining a work visa that is subject to various rules and regulations. This is where a work visa after study in the USA comes in handy, which allows them to work in their field of study for a limited period.

A post-study work visa can help international students gain valuable work experience, enhance their skills, and build their network in the USA. It can also increase their chances of finding a permanent job and obtaining a green card in the future. However, getting a post-study work visa is not guaranteed and requires careful planning and preparation. In this article, we will discuss the eligibility criteria, application process, and benefits of a post-study work visa in the USA.

What is a Work Visa After Study in the USA? 

A post-study work visa is a type of visa that allows international students who have completed their academic studies in the USA to stay and work in the country for a limited period. The main purpose of this visa is to provide the students with the opportunity to gain practical experience in their field of study and enhance their career prospects.  There are different types of post-study work visas in the USA, depending on the student’s visa status, degree, and employer. 

The most common one is the Optional Practical Training (OPT), which is available for F-1 visa holders who have graduated from an accredited US institution. The OPT allows the students to work for up to 12 months in a job that is directly related to their major area of study. The students can apply for the OPT before or after they graduate, or a combination of both. However, the total duration of the OPT cannot exceed 12 months.  

Another option for a post-study work visa in the USA is the STEM OPT extension, which is only available for F-1 visa holders who have graduated from a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics) program. The STEM OPT extension allows the students to work for an additional 24 months in a STEM-related job, provided that their employer participates in the E-Verify program. The E-Verify program is an online system that verifies the employment eligibility of workers in the USA.  

There are other types of post-study work visas, such as the H-1B visa, which is for temporary workers in specialty occupations, and the H-3 visa, which is for trainees. However, these visas have more restrictions and requirements than the OPT, and they depend on the availability of an employer who is willing to sponsor the visa application. For instance, The cap for fiscal year 2023 was set at 85,000 visas, of which 20,000 were reserved for graduates with a master’s degree or higher from a US institution. The H-1B visa is highly competitive and requires the employer to sponsor the worker and file a petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Therefore, many students prefer to apply for an OPT first and then seek other options if they want to continue working in the USA.

Suggested Reading: Affordable Universities for International Students in the USA

Optical Practical Training: Application, Eligibility and Process  

OPT is a temporary employment authorization that allows F-1 students to work in their major field of study for up to 12 months. The application process for OPT involves getting a recommendation from your school, submitting an online or paper form to USCIS, paying a fee, and receiving an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. 

There are three different types of OPT:  

Pre-completion OPT: You can apply for this type of OPT after you have been enrolled full-time for one academic year at a SEVP(Student and Exchange Visitor Program)-certified school. You can work part-time (20 hours or less per week) while school is in session, and full-time during breaks. You must apply for pre-completion OPT before your program end date. 

Post-completion OPT: You can apply for this type of OPT after you have completed your studies. You can work part-time or full-time for 12 months. You must apply for post-completion OPT within 60 days of your program end date. If you have used any pre-completion OPT, it will be deducted from your post-completion OPT period. 

STEM OPT extension: If you have a degree in a STEM field, you can apply for a 24-month extension of your post-completion OPT. You must have an employer who is enrolled in E-Verify, and you must submit a training plan with your application. You must apply for a STEM OPT extension before your post-completion OPT expires. 

Eligibility 

  • You must have a valid F-1 student status at the time of application. 
  • You must be enrolled full-time for at least one full academic year in the U.S. 
  • You must be physically present in the U.S. when you submit your application. 
  • You must intend to work or volunteer in a professional development opportunity directly related to your major field of study

Application Process 

  • Request a recommendation for OPT from your designated school official (DSO). Your DSO will enter the OPT request on SEVIS and print and sign a new Form I-20 for you. 
  • Sign the new Form I-20 and make a copy of it. 
  • Complete the online form I-765 
  • Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee of 200 USD if you have not paid it before. 
  • Pay the USCIS filing fee of 410 USD by check, money order, or credit card. 
  • Prepare two passport-style photos with your name and SEVIS ID number written lightly on the back. 
  • Make copies of your passport, visa, I-94 record, previous EAD card (if any), and previous I-20s (if any). Submit your application to USCIS online or by mail. 
  • You can find the online filing option and the mailing addresses on the USCIS website. You must submit your application within 30 days of getting the new Form I-20 from your DSO. 

After you submit your application, you will receive a receipt notice from USCIS with a tracking number. You can use this number to check the status of your application on the USCIS website. It may take several months for USCIS to process your application and mail you an EAD card. You cannot start working until you receive your EAD card and it is valid. You must also report your employment information to your DSO through SEVIS or other means.

Suggested Reading: Affordable Cities in the USA for International Students

Things to Keep in Mind While Applying for a Work Visa After Study in the USA

Some of the tips that you should keep in mind while applying for a work visa are:

  • Start your research and planning early, as the visa process can take several months or longer. Consult with your Designated School Official (DSO) or an immigration lawyer for guidance and assistance. 
  • Follow the instructions and requirements carefully and submit all the necessary documents and fees on time. 
  • Prepare well for your visa interview and be ready to answer questions about your education, work experience, and plans. 
  • Be honest and respectful during your visa application and interview process.
  • Keep track of your visa status and expiration date and apply for extensions or changes as needed. 
  • Maintain your student status and comply with the rules and regulations of your visa category. Explore other visa options that may suit your needs and goals, such as a green card, spouse visa, or investor visa. 
  • Seek advice and support from your employer, alumni network, or professional associations if you face any challenges or difficulties in your work visa process.

Suggested Reading: All About UK PSW (Post Study Work) Visa

Conclusion 

In conclusion, acquiring a work visa after studying in the USA can open many doors for you. A work visa allows you to stay and work in the USA for a certain period, depending on your field of study and employer. By working in the USA, you can gain valuable experience, skills, and connections that can boost your career prospects. A work visa can also be a stepping stone to permanent residency or citizenship if you meet the eligibility criteria and follow the legal process. Therefore, getting a work visa after studying in the USA can be a rewarding and beneficial decision for your personal and professional growth. However, getting a work visa is no easy task either. Therefore, it is important to be careful and diligent during the process. You should prepare all the required documents, follow the legal procedures, and consult with your employer or a qualified immigration lawyer. You can also reach out to our admission experts at OneApply, and leave the hassle to us. Your free video call appointment is waiting! 

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FAQ’s

Yes, international students can apply for work visas, such as the Optional Practical Training (OPT) and the H-1B visa, after completing their studies in the USA. 

OPT is a program that allows international students on F-1 visas to work in their field of study for up to 12 months after graduation. STEM students can extend it for an additional 24 months.

Yes, it’s possible to apply for a Green Card through employment-based categories or family-sponsored categories after studying and working in the USA. The process can take several years.

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