What are US visa options for F-1 students on OPT?
What is OPT?
Foreign students in the US on F-1 visas are usually eligible for a one year work permit after graduation, referred to as Optional Practical Training or OPT. F-1 students request OPT through their school’s international student office. If you are a F-1 student with a STEM degree (i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering, Math fields), you may be eligible for a 17 month STEM extension through an employer enrolled in E-verify.
How do I stay in the US after my OPT expires?
F-1 students typically stay in the US through an employer’s visa sponsorship. Improve your odds by being a model employee while working on OPT, and learn the skills and technology that are sought-after in your industry. Employers are more inclined to sponsor a valuable and well-trained employee. Also, consult with a qualified immigration attorney early to assess your options, and have them speak with your employer directly. Most employers are not familiar with US immigration law, so this conversation can help your employer understand what to expect and dispel any myths.
The most common employment-based visa filed for F-1 students on OPT is the H-1B temporary work visa for professionals in a specialty occupation. This visa typically involves a lottery filing on April 1st.
Other visa options we have utilized for our F-1 student clients include:
TN visa (certain professional positions for citizens of Canada or Mexico)
E-3 visa (certain professional positions for nationals of Australia)
H-1B1 visa (certain professional positions for citizens of Singapore or Chile)
E-2 / E-1 visa (nationals of countries with particular treaty relationships with the US for treaty traders, treaty investors or qualified employees)
L-1 visa (transfer of certain managers, executives or specialized knowledge employees from an international company to a related qualifying US company)
J-1 visa (filed through U.S. Department of State designated Exchange Visitor Programs, some allowing employment)