The F-1 Student Visa allows for international students to legally remain in the United States for 60 days after graduation. It’s very common for recently graduated international students to want to remain in the US to begin their careers. 60 days is a relatively short time frame for trying to secure one’s immigration status, so it’s recommended that students who do wish to remain in the country to have a plan prior to graduation. International students graduating from a US university have a few more options than most to seek legal status.
F-1 visa holders, like everyone else, can pursue other non-immigrant visas (such as the H-1B Visa for specialized workers) and immigrant visas (such as a family-based visa or EB visa) through traditional means. The biggest advantage of the F-1 visa is the availability of Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT can extend the stay of international students in the US while providing on-the-job training.
OPT is available both before and after graduation, however, any time spent participating in OPT before graduation is deducted from available time for OPT after graduation. A total of 12 months of OPT is available to every student attending a US university on an F-1 visa. Students who graduate with a STEM degree can apply for a 24-month OPT extension, for a total eligibility of 36 months. Eligible science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees can be found here. During time spent in OPT, graduates earn valuable experience in their field and allows them to pursue other visas or permanent residency in the US.
Applying for OPT requires a designated school official (DSO) to recommend the program to eligible students. DSOs will endorse a student’s Form I-20, Certification of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status and report that information to the Department of Homeland Security. Students must then file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with Citizenship and Immigration Services and provide the appropriate documentation and fees. When Form I-765 is approved, students will receive their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and can begin work.
For international students in the US approaching the end of their education, the immigration attorneys at the Law Offices of Scott Warmuth offer immigration assistance and expertise to help students meet their immigration goals. For a free consultation, call our offices today at 888-517-9888.