Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows F-1 visa holders to temporarily work in the United States.  F-1 visas are also known as student visas.  Optional Practical Training should not be confused with Curricular Practical Training (CPT), although OPT and CPT are similar.

OPT is only available to F-1 students.  It is a wise option for F-1 students who want to remain and work in the United States, and who do not have the option of applying for an H-1B visa or lawful permanent residency.  OPT allows F-1 students to work for a period of up to 12 months.  F-1 students may utilize their OPT time during the course of their studies (pre-completion OPT) or upon completion of their studies (post-completion OPT).  Whether the F-1 visa holder decides to use pre-completion or post-completion OPT, her work must be directly related to her major area of study.

Pre-completion OPT is available once a student has completed one full academic year of study in the United States.  During the academic school year, F-1 students are only permitted to work part-time.  However, F-1 students may work full-time while school is not in session, such as during summer vacation.  Upon completion of their studies, F-1 students may work full-time.

Please keep in mind that you are only able to work for a total of 12 months under OPT.  If you choose pre-completion OPT, your time will be deducted from your post-completion OPT.  There is one exception to this rule, which is available to students majoring in specific fields related to science, technology, engineering, or math.  This exception is known as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Extension, and it permits students in the STEM fields to receive a 17-month extension of post-completion OPT.  To determine whether you are STEM eligible, contact Amara Immigration Law, LLC at info@amaralaw.com.

If you are an F-1 student who wants to continue to live and work in the United States, but you have exhausted all of your OPT time, you should consider the possibility of obtaining an H-1B visa.  You may also be eligible for F-1/H-1B Cap-Gap, which will help you easily transition from an F-1 visa to an H-1B visa without accruing unlawful presence.  To determine whether an H-1B visa is a viable option for you, contact our Boston Immigration Attorney today.

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