As an international student in the US, obtaining Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completing your studies is crucial for gaining valuable work experience and launching your career. However, OPT eligibility requirements can seem quite complex, leaving many students unsure about how to proceed. One of the most common questions is whether you can apply for OPT with an expired visa. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide to help you navigate this process.
- OPT is available to F-1 visa students who have completed an academic program in the US.
- OPT eligibility requires maintaining valid F-1 status.
- Eligibility for OPT varies depending on your degree level and field of study.
- You can apply for OPT with an expired visa if you meet certain conditions.
- The OPT application process requires careful attention to deadline and documentation requirements.
Understanding OPT Eligibility
First and foremost, applying for OPT requires that you have completed an eligible academic program in the US. This program must have been completed on an F-1 visa, which is the student visa that allows you to study in the US. OPT is designed to provide practical work experience related to your field of study, so you will need to have a degree or certificate in a qualifying major.
To be eligible for OPT, you must also maintain valid F-1 status throughout your academic program. This means that you must meet certain requirements such as attending school full-time and not engaging in unauthorized work. If your visa expires while you are still enrolled in your academic program, you would need to request a program extension from your university’s international student office to maintain your F-1 status.
OPT Eligibility and Degree Level
Eligibility for OPT also depends on your level of study. If you are pursuing a bachelor’s degree, you will be eligible for up to 12 months of OPT during or immediately after graduation. Master’s and PhD students may be eligible for up to 36 months of OPT. This longer duration of OPT for students with higher degrees is designed to provide additional opportunities for career advancement and work experience.
OPT Eligibility and Field of Study
OPT eligibility is also dependent on your field of study. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) majors are eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT beyond the initial 12 months. This is known as the STEM OPT extension and can be a valuable opportunity to gain extended work experience and advance your career. However, not all STEM fields are eligible, so it is important to check with your university’s international student office.
Can You Apply for OPT with an Expired Visa?
The short answer is yes, you can apply for OPT with an expired visa – but only if you meet certain conditions. Specifically, if your F-1 visa has expired but you are currently in a valid period of authorized stay, typically through your university’s program extension, you can still apply for OPT. However, it is important to note that you will need to obtain a valid F-1 visa before beginning employment on your OPT.
If you are uncertain about the timing of your visa expiration and authorized stay period, you should consult with your university’s international student office before applying for OPT. It is important to make sure that you are in valid F-1 status throughout the application and employment period to avoid any potential legal issues.
Applying for OPT
Once you determine your eligibility and visa status, you can begin the OPT application process. It is important to plan ahead and be aware of the application deadline, which is typically 90 days before your program end date. The OPT application requires various forms, documents, and fees, including the I-765 form, OPT recommendation from your university’s international student office, and proof of your degree completion.
You will need to wait for your OPT application to be approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before beginning employment. Once approved, you must report any changes to your employment status or address to your university’s international student office.
OPT is an important opportunity for international students to gain valuable work experience and launch their careers in the US. While determining eligibility and navigating the application process can be complex, it is important to stay informed and consult with your university’s international student office as necessary. If your visa has expired but you are in a valid period of authorized stay, you should be able to apply for OPT and obtain a valid visa before starting employment. By following the correct procedures and timelines, you can successfully obtain OPT and take the next steps toward your career goals.
Q: Can I apply for OPT before my visa has expired?
A: Yes, you can apply for OPT before your visa has expired as long as you are in valid F-1 status.
Q: Can I work while my OPT application is pending?
A: No, you cannot begin any employment until your OPT application is approved and your EAD card is in hand.
Q: Can I change jobs during the OPT period?
A: Yes, you can change jobs during the OPT period, but you must report any changes to your university’s international student office.
Q: How long does it typically take for the OPT application to be approved?
A: The processing time for OPT applications can vary, but generally takes around 3 months. It is important to plan ahead and apply early to avoid any delays.