A Complete Guide to OPT Visa Sponsorship for International Students in the US

If you’re an international student studying in the United States, you may be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) visa sponsorship. OPT is a program designed to give international students an opportunity to gain experience in their field of study by working in the US after graduation. In this guide, we provide a comprehensive overview of OPT visa sponsorship and its various categories, requirements, benefits, and limitations.

Key Takeaways:

  • OPT visa sponsorship is a program that allows international students to work in the US after graduation to gain valuable experience in their field of study.
  • There are three categories of OPT: pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT, and STEM OPT extension.
  • Eligibility requirements include being a full-time student, maintaining a valid F-1 visa status, and completing at least one academic year of study in the US.
  • The duration of OPT varies based on the category, with pre-completion OPT limited to part-time work while school is in session and full-time work during breaks, post-completion OPT typically lasting up to 12 months, and STEM OPT extension adding an additional 24 months.
  • Employers who hire OPT students benefit from a diverse pool of talent, language proficiency, and cultural awareness, among other advantages.

OPT Categories and Requirements

Pre-Completion OPT

Pre-completion OPT allows students to work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) while school is in session and full-time (up to 40 hours per week) during breaks. You’re eligible for pre-completion OPT as soon as you’ve completed one academic year of study in the US.

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To apply for pre-completion OPT, you must:

  • Be currently enrolled full-time in a US college or university.
  • Have completed at least one academic year in the US.
  • Have maintained valid F-1 visa status.
  • Obtain a recommendation from a designated school official (DSO).
  • File Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with the USCIS.

Post-Completion OPT

Post-completion OPT allows students to work full-time (up to 40 hours per week) for up to 12 months after graduation or completion of their academic program. You must apply for post-completion OPT within 90 days of graduation or completion of your program.

To apply for post-completion OPT, you must:

  • Have completed a degree from a US college or university.
  • Have maintained valid F-1 visa status.
  • File Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with the USCIS.

STEM OPT Extension

STEM OPT extension allows students who have completed a degree in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) and are employed by a US employer in a related field to apply for an additional 24 months of OPT beyond the initial 12 months.

To apply for STEM OPT extension, you must:

  • Have completed a degree in a STEM field from a US college or university accredited by the US Department of Education.
  • Have maintained valid F-1 visa status and completed post-completion OPT.
  • Be employed by a US employer in a related field.
  • File Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with the USCIS.
  • Submit Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, signed by you and your employer.

Benefits of OPT Visa Sponsorship

OPT visa sponsorship offers benefits not only to international students but to US employers as well. For international students, OPT visa sponsorship provides an opportunity to gain valuable work experience in their field of study, make professional connections, and enhance their resumes. It also enables students to remain in the US for a period of time after graduation and potentially pursue a longer-term visa or permanent residency.

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For US employers, OPT visa sponsorship offers access to a diverse pool of talent, including students with language proficiency, cultural awareness, and unique perspectives. It also allows employers to identify and evaluate potential long-term hires without committing to permanent sponsorship.

Conclusion

OPT visa sponsorship is a valuable program for international students looking to gain experience and establish themselves professionally in the US. By following the eligibility requirements and guidelines outlined in this guide, students can take advantage of the program and employers can benefit from the diverse pool of talent it offers.

FAQs

How long does it take to process an OPT application?

OPT applications take an average of 90 days to process. It’s recommended that you apply as early as possible before your intended start date to allow for any delays or issues.

Can I work for multiple employers while on OPT?

Yes, you can work for multiple employers while on OPT as long as the work is related to your degree program and you don’t exceed the maximum number of hours allowed per week.

Can I travel outside the US while on OPT?

Yes, you can travel outside the US while on OPT, but it’s important to have all the necessary documents and ensure that your OPT status is still valid when you return.

About the Author

Latasha W. Bolt

Latasha is a travel writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a degree in journalism and has been traveling the world since she was a teenager. Latasha is experienced in navigating the visa and passport application process and shares her knowledge and experiences on the blog. Her articles are personal and engaging, providing readers with a unique perspective on the joys and challenges of international travel.

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