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Do you wish to work in the US after completing your degree there? If so, then you should know all about Optional Practical Training (OPT).

An F-1 visa is required for international students to attend full-time courses at universities in the US. This is a temporary visa and is also known as the student visa. This visa permits a student to work for 20 hours a week on campus during semester and for full time during vacation. F-1 visa holders become eligible for off-campus employment once they have completed their first academic year. Students are eligible for 12 months of temporary employment during and after their studies. OPT must be directly related to your area of study.

Types of OPT

An F-1 student can gain work experience through two types of OPT:

Pre-completion OPT

You can apply for pre-completion OPT if you are a full-time student for at least 1 year at a college or university that has been certified by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While on OPT you can work part-time for up to 20 hours a week while the school is in session and for full-time during vacation.

Post-completion OPT

You may apply for post-completion OPT after completing your studies. If you are authorized for post-completion OPT, you may work part-time or full-time.

All periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the total available 12 months when the student applies for post-completion OPT.

You can apply for OPT up to 90 days before your course completion and for up to 60 days after course completion. Your Designated School Official (DSO) is the best source of OPT info./p>

Okay, wait…I thought OPT is for 3 years!

Yes, if you’re a STEM program student.

Since May 10, 2016 STEM students have been eligible for a post-completion OPT extension. This means that in addition to the regular 1 year of OPT, STEM students get a 24-month extension.

This enables graduates to stay and work in the US for a total of 3 years after completing their degree. Most students get full-time jobs during that time putting them en route to H1-B visa and eventually, green card. Know more about STEM courses here.

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