F-1 and F-1 OPT
F-1 Student Visa
An F-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa issued by U.S. Consulate abroad to an alien who plans to come to the U.S. to pursue “full-time studies” at a U.S. educational school or institution.
To be eligible to apply for F-1 visa, foreign student:
- must be enrolled in a full course of study, not part-time studies;
- must also demonstrate prior to the granting of a visa that they have sufficient means of support to cover them through their full academic program;
- must be proficient in English or be enrolled in English language course leading to proficiency;
- must have sufficient funds available to him or her to support him or herself completely during the entire proposed course of study;
- must maintain a residence abroad and must intend to depart the U.S. upon completion of his or her studies; and
- must intend to attend the school specified on the F-1 visa upon initial admission.
The spouse and/or unmarried, minor children of F-1 visa holders may enter the U.S. in the F-2 visa category, provided that (1) the F-2 students has been admitted and is, or will be within 30 days, (2) enrolled in a full-course of study, or (3) engaged in approved practical training following completion of studies.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization is designed to provide opportunities for employment to international students with F-1 status for up to a total of 12 months of practical training either before and/or after completion of studies. During the period of OPT, a student will maintain F-1 visa status since it is considered to be part of the program of study. An F-1 student may not begin optional practical training until the date indicated on his or her employment authorization document. A period of practical training must serve a legitimate purpose and cannot be used by a U.S. employer to train a foreign national for a permanent position in the U.S. It can be used, however, to train a recent graduate for placement with a company office abroad, as a trial period to assess the student’s skills, or for any reason other than permanent placement in the U.S.
To be eligible to apply for F-1 optional practical training after the completion of studies:
- A student may submit an application to participate in an optional practice training program up to 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year and no later than 60 days after the academic program’s end-date. The period of employment must not begin until after the completion of the full academic years; and
- The job is directly related to the student’s major area of study.
Students enrolled in English language training programs are not eligible for practical trailing after the completion of their studies.
An F-1 student may be authorized to work in his or her pre-graduation OPT status after he or she has been enrolled for one full academic year. The pre-graduation OPT must be directly related to the student’s major area of study. The students authorized to participate in pre-graduation OPT must work part-time while school is in session and full time when school is not in session.
An F-1 student may be work in his or her post-completion OPT status after the student is in a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral program and has completed all course requirements for the degree (excluding a thesis or its equivalent) or when the student has competed his or her course of study. The post-completion OPT must also be directly related to the student’s major area of study.
F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees included on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, are employed by employers enrolled in E-Verify, and who have received an initial grant of post-completion OPT related to such a degree, are eligible for a 17-month extension of OPT.
H-1B Cap-Gap Extension
The lawful status of an F-1 student who is the beneficiary of an H-1B petition and a request for change of status will be automatically extended, along with any grant of optional practical training work authorization, until October 1 of the fiscal year for which H-1B status is being requested. This extension will allow F-1 students whose OPT will expire before the start date of a petition filed under the H_1B cap to remain in the U.S. and work through the beginning of their H-1B employment on October 1.