Study and Work in the US

The U.S classifies student visas under the academic (F-1 category) or M for vocational students. Both categories may be eligible for employment authorization under certain conditions.


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Study and Work in the US
Written by Crispin Aranda.
Posted on December 20, 2013 | United States of America

This is an archived article. CLICK HERE to read the latest post, "Work While Studying in the U.S."

Study and Work in the US

The U.S classifies student visas under the academic (F-1 category) or M for vocational students. Both categories may be eligible for employment authorization under certain conditions.

Like Canada, foreign students may work on-campus or off-campus.  Unlike Canada, off-campus work is allowed only where the student can show evidence of “severe economic hardship” after a student's enrollment in an academic program and after the student has been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year, or in emergent circumstances such a world event that impacts nonimmigrants, including those in the US in F or M status.

Practical Training

An F student may work in the United States by engaging in practical training during the academic program or after it ends. There are two types of practical training available for F-1 students: curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT).

CPT

  • CPT must relate to the major course enrolled in and the experience must be part of the program of study.
  • Students at the graduate level must obtain authorization from the designated school official  for CPT during the first semester if the program requires this type of experience.  
  • Work on CPT could either full-time or part-time.
  • CPT requires a signed cooperative agreement or a letter from the employer.
  • A student with 12 months or more of full-time CPT, is not eligible for OPT; Part-time CPT still allows doing OPT.

OPT

  • OPT must relate to the major or course of study.
  • A student is eligible to apply for 12 months of OPT at each education level, (i.e., you have 12 months of OPT at the bachelor’s level and another 12 months of OPT at the master’s level).
  • Work authorization is completed online, but work must start only after receiving employment authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
  • Students may only work 20 hours per week while school is in session.

Bonus 17-Month OPT STEM Extension

A student could get an additional 17 months of OPT under the following circumstances:

  • The degree for the current period of post-completion OPT is a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in a specified science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) program.
  • The employer must use the E-Verify program.
  • The student has not previously received a 17-month extension of OPT.
  • While waiting for the 17-month OPT extension, the STEM student may continue to work on your expired EAD for OPT up to 180 if:
  • The student is currently in a period of post-completion OPT.
  • The 17-month extended OPT application is filed while the student is still in legal

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About the Author

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.

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