As an international student on an F1 visa, you must understand your eligibility to work in the US and familiarize yourself with the tricky employment landscape. This blog will help you understand the immigration rules and regulations and assist you in filing paperwork to secure the internship which will arm you with rich professional experience with a top employer.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) are the two terms that you may keep hearing as you move forward in this process. Students must seek the help of their school’s careers services office and the designated school official (DSO) who can aid them in finding a job and internship opportunity. Students must be aware of their degree school’s CPT and OPT deadlines in addition to the US government’s rules. CPT must be completed before you graduate from your program and OPT can be completed before or after you graduate.
All international students with an F1 student visa who are seeking work through paid internship programs must first secure their CPT authorization ahead of applying for their internships. The school DSO where you attend your degree program will authorize CPT in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS) and it will be printed on your I-20 form. The DSO authorized CPT status makes you eligible for CPT employment opportunities in your major area of study. Get in touch with the school DSO to learn more information.
CPT requires a letter from the employer and the employment period specifically mentioned.
CPT must be completed before graduation. CPT work status allows the student
a) Full time work for 20 hours or more per week
b) Part time work for 20 hours or less per week (if you work full time for 12 months with CPT, you will not be eligible for OPT)
All international students with an F1 student visa who are seeking work after completing their degree programs must first secure their OPT authorization ahead of applying for jobs. The DSO will recommend OPT (applicable for graduate and master’s degrees) and provide an I-20 form. The student must send a completed Form-I-765 to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for approval. Once the Form I-765 is approved, USCIS.gov will send you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Note you must only start work from the start date stated in the EAD.
F1 student visa holders can choose to apply for either Pre-completion OPT or Post-completion OPT.
Students can request and apply for a 24-month OPT extension
a) If they obtained a degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) field approved by DHS.gov
b) Currently working in a Post-Completion OPT period
c) Working (or planning to work) for an employer who uses the E-Verify program
d) You and your employer have signed Form I-983- Training Plan for STEM OPT Students
F1 student visa holders who want to maintain the F1 visa status post completion of their degree program or OPT can request an extension to minimize the gap between the end of the F-1 status and the start of H-1B status.
The H-1B visa can be secured once your employer submits a petition to USCIS on your behalf. H-1B visa status is a temporary employment authorization that allows you to work in the US for up to six years.
No, unless CPT is authorized for less than 12 months of full-time work (more than 20 hours per week). You will not be able to apply for OPT if your full-time CPT duration is 12 months. Part-time CPT (20 hours per week or less) will not be deducted from OPT.
You may be asked some probing questions about your sponsor and his profession to understand the income source to fund your academic stint in the US without any hiccups. Be ready with all the answers to state their professional details and attest concrete evidence to outline their intention to fund your studies on international soil.
Students can apply for CPT and OPT at the same time. But if you work for 12 months on full-time CPT, you cannot apply for OPT. Part-time CPT will not affect the eligibility for OPT, even if you work for more than 12 months.
Students can choose between CPT and OPT based on their a) if the degree program requires an internship to graduate b) if the student plans on having more than one internship.
CPT is better for a student if they are looking for a short-term job as an undergraduate student or looking for a mandatory internship that counts as credit toward their degree. The CPT application process is free, DSO’s can confirm CPT approval within 7 days.
OPT is better if you are a graduate-level student or if you have recently graduated. The CPT application process is complex and involves the approval of USCIS.
Get in touch with your DSO to find out more information about your OPT CPT status.