Stay Back Period and Post Study Work Permit in the USA


Subhashri Roy
Updated on Apr 24, 2023 10:37 PM IST

Want to work in the US post graduation? Here are the stay back and post-study work permits in the US that you can apply for, with each demanding different requirements to be fulfiled and offering different benefits for a specific period of time. Read on to learn about all of them. 

Stay Back Period and Post Study Work Permit in the USA

For years, the United States has been the first choice for young talent from across the world not only for higher education but also for their desire to be part of the American workforce.

Well, in the US, your ticket to stay back post-graduation may vary depending on your immigrant status, length of stay as well as course of study. So, if you decide to stay back in the US post-graduation, you will have a few paths that you can take to remain in the country and pursue employment.

If you ask us, applying for a post-study work permit in the US will only help you prosper in today's competitive job market. But, identifying the right post-study work permit, and landing the ideal job opportunity can be pretty daunting. This is a quick guide to exploring your stay-back and post-study work permit options in the US.

How to Legally Stay in the USA After Graduation - An Overview 

Can international students and graduates work in the USA once they graduate? Yes! But how long can they stay in the country once they graduate, it all depends. An OPT extension is one way for international students to stay in the USA after graduating on an international student visa. The post-completion OPT allows recent graduates to work in the United States for up to a year. 

Many students are curious about how to qualify for OPT before graduation. Unlike CPT, which must be completed while you are still enrolled at your college or university, OPT can be done before or after graduation. 

Just remember that you can only receive a total of 12 months of practical instruction. Therefore, you will not have qualified for this kind of F-1 visa extension if you used all of your OPT or CPT while you were still enrolled. However, if you register in a graduate programme, you become qualified once more. 

A STEM OPT extension may be available to students majoring in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). Following graduation from this program, you are permitted to remain and work in the US for 24 months.

Want to Know If You Can Work Post-Study in the US?

Types of Post-Study Work Visa in USA

The three distinct types of student visas M-1, F-1, and J-visas allow international students to apply for a work permit in USA after completing their studies. One of these visas is required for admission if an international student wants to pursue a degree at a US university. Here is a brief description of all of the types of post-study work visas in USA:

  • M-1 Visa: An established vocational or other approved non-academic institution, such as a post-secondary vocational or business school, may give international students the M-1 visa, which is a non-immigrant visa, to pursue a course of study that is not entirely academic in nature. Vocational studies include things like culinary school, technical training, mechanical classes, aviation school, etc.
  • F-1 Visa: Students who wish to pursue full-time education in the US may apply for an F-1 visa, which is a non-immigrant visa. Therefore, individuals who intend to enrol in a university, seminary, language programme, private elementary school, or any other academic institution in the US are those who apply for an F-1 visa. This visa is necessary for a work permit in the USA following a master's.
  • J-1 Visa: An exchange visitor's J-1 visa is issued to foreign nationals participating in an approved exchange visitor program in the United States. The purpose may be to teach, lecture, study, instruct, conduct research, demonstrate special skills or observe. You may choose to apply for this visa in order to pursue medical training or education.

What is Curricular Practical Training? 

CPT, or curricular practical training, is an off-campus employment option that is exclusively open to students with F-1 visas. The candidate must notify the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, often known as the USCIS, and gain approval from the institute's International Student Help Desk to be granted CPT. The paid CPT job enables students to make money while they are still in their home country after finishing their studies in the USA.

CPT Rules for F-1 Visa

  • The student must complete CPT training to earn academic credit.

  • The student must have a valid F-1 visa and must have been enrolled in school in the United States for at least a year.

  • Before requesting CPT authorisation, the student must have received a job offer in the field of study they are majoring in.

Stay Back and Post-Study Work Opportunities on an F-1 Visa

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is the one stay-back opportunity right after you have completed your programme of study in the United States. As an F-1 visa holder, you can complete up to a year of temporary work directly related to your field of study. Apart from this, in case you have earned a degree in STEM fields, you can apply for a 24-month extension of your post-completion OPT employment authorisation.

Stay Back in the US With OPT Authorisation

OPT is temporary employment for eligible students who have an F-1 student visa and find employment in their area of study. This 12-month OPT employment authorisation could be taken up either before or after the completion of your academic studies. However, all periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the remaining period of post-completion OPT.

What is Pre-Completion OPT? 

After receiving your full-time enrollment at a college that has been approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to accept F-1 students, you can submit an application for pre-completion OPT. The course must last for at least 12 months. When your classes are in session, you are permitted to work a maximum of 20 hours per week on a part-time basis. You may put in a full day's work throughout the holidays.

What is Post-Completion OPT?

Post-completion OPT is the type of OPT that can be authorised only after you have completed your studies. Once you have been authorised for post-completion OPT, you can work part-time or 20 hours or less per week) or full-time.

Stay Back in the US With STEM OPT Extension

This is for you if you have completed a degree in a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field. You may apply for this 24-month extension to your post-completion OPT employment authorisation if you:

  • Are an F-1 student with a STEM degree included on the USCIS list?

  • Have received an initial grant of post-completion OPT employment authorisation based on your STEM degree.

  • Are employed by an organisation that is enrolled in and is using E-verify.

You may watch the following video to get detailed information about the post-study work options for international students in the USA:

When to Apply for Post-Completion OPT Based on STEM and Non-STEM Degrees?

If you are applying for initial post-completion OPT based on a STEM degree:

  • Apply after and within 30 days after your DSO puts the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record.

  • Apply up to 90 days before you are scheduled to earn your degree, but no later than 60 days after you earn your degree.

If you are applying for STEM OPT extension based on a STEM degree:

  • Apply after and within 60 days after your DSO puts the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record.

  • Apply up to 90 days before your current OPT employment authorisation expires.

If you are applying for Post-completion OPT based on a Non-STEM degree:

  • Apply after and within 30 days after your DSO puts the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record.

  • Apply up to 90 days before but no later than 60 days after you complete your degree.

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Your DSO needs to make an OPT request in SEVIS before you can start your application. Once everything is done, you can complete the OPT application and pay the filing cost as well as the fee for the biometric services. Together, including the SEVIS Fee for USA Student Visa, the two costs add up to USD 495 in total. Following the instructions below will help students apply for an OPT extension:

Step 1: Request your DSO to submit an OPT request to SEVIS.

Step 2: Sign the I-20 form (provided by your DSO).

Step 3: Fill out an Employment Authorisation Application.

Step 4: Send the application, the OPT extension fee, and the necessary supporting documents by mail or online.

Step 5: Respond to any proof request from USCIS by the specified deadline.

Step 6: Receive your approval.

You can apply for OPT without having a job or an offer of employment. When you do find employment, it must, however, be in a field that is closely relevant to your study. For most students, OTP extension approval takes around 80 to 120 days.

Wondering if you can work in the US beyond OPT? Well, quite simply, the answer is yes, you can. While OPT is the first stay-back and post-study work option that every international student is offered in the US, many believe that OPT is not the best option for them. So, post-OPT, these are the work permits that you can apply for in the US:

H-1B Visa: An H-1B Visa is a non-immigrant visa for temporary employment in a speciality occupation. The H-1B visa programme allows companies and other employers to temporarily recruit foreign workers in occupations that demand the theoretical and practical application of specialised knowledge and a bachelor's degree in the field or its equivalent. These speciality occupations may include fields such as mathematics, social sciences, medicine, law, theology, engineering, architecture, physical sciences, social sciences, education, health, business specialities, accounting and the arts.

An H-1B visa is granted for an initial period of three years, which can be extended for an additional three years but not beyond six years.

In order to apply for an H-1B visa, you must fulfil the following criteria:

  • Have a US employer sponsor you,

  • You have a bachelor's degree from the US or its equivalent,

  • Your job roles and responsibilities and your education and work experience are interlinked.

The H-1B visa classification has an annual cap of 65,000 visas each fiscal year. An additional 20,000 petitions for those with a master's degree or higher from any of the universities in the US are exempt from the H-1B cap.

Post-Work Permits Beyond H-1 B Visa:

  • Non-immigrant O-1 Visa: This is not an alternative to the H-1B visa, which is open to those with outstanding skills or abilities in your field of study/expertise. For this visa, you may require an employer sponsor although you might also have the option to self-sponsor. The visa is only for those with extraordinary ability in the fields of business, education, athletics or sciences.

  • E-2 Investor Visa: The visa is for graduates who want to run their own business in the US, or wish to start or buy a business in the country and are from selected treaty countries. Additionally, the applicant should also wish to make a substantial financial contribution/investment in it and they might need an immigrant status in order to run the business. Again, this investment amount would depend on the type of business.

  • Obtaining Permanent Resident/Green Card Status: If you want to live and work in the US, you can be a permanent resident by applying for a green card status. The same can be secured through an offer of permanent employment with around 140,000 such immigration visas issued every year. It is usually done with your recruiter obtaining a labour certification and a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. In total, the US has five categories of employment-based immigration visas. These include priority workers, professionals with advanced degrees and persons of exceptional ability, certain special immigrants, immigrant investor visas and professionals with a bachelor's degree or skilled workers.

B-1/B-2 Visa 

It is necessary to explore all of your alternatives when deciding if overseas students can find employment in the USA following graduation. A temporary, non-immigrant visa known as a B-1/B-2 enables its bearer to visit the US for either business or pleasure. Except for student travel, which falls under F-1 visas, these visas cover almost all occasions for brief travel.

Travel for work is covered by the B-1 visa, whereas holidays and family visits are covered by the B-2 visa. Among the reasons for travelling on a B visa are:

  • Carrying out business activities, such as meetings and negotiations.

  • Attending a conference that is pertinent to your field of work, your college, or your present venture.

  • Resolving real estate disputes.

  • Visiting relatives and family members.

  • Attending events like concerts, classes, etc., so long as the visa holder is not handed money or a credit card to use.

Although a B-1/B-2 visa holder cannot receive permanent residency, they are still eligible to apply for a green card while they are on the visa, which may provide another opportunity for international students to work in the US after graduation. This visa allows for multiple US entries and has a 180-day maximum validity period. You must demonstrate that your trip is temporary and that you have the means to cover the entire expense of it on your own to qualify for this visa.

Guidelines for Maintaining Your US Visa Status 

It is essential to keep your visa status as an international student. Here are some recommendations and tips for maintaining your US Visa status intact: 

  • Respect the University's Code of Conduct and US Laws: They must observe the laws the US government enforces because they are international students. Furthermore, all students enrolled in US colleges are expected to adhere to strict rules of conduct. Students risk losing their visas if they violate the university's rules for behaviour for any reason. 

  • Prepare the Necessary Travel Documents: Before departing for the USA, it is best to prepare all required travel documents. Students are recommended to have copies of their Form I-20 and passport, as well as their immigration documentation.  

  • Your Address Must be Up to Date: If your address changes after you relocate to the US, be sure to let your university know. 

  • Make Sure Your Passport is Up to Date: The students must make sure that their passports are still valid before departing for the US. The passport should be valid for six months at the very least. 

A long-term career in the US may be possible for you if you go through the hard and time-consuming procedure of finding employment and extending your stay there. Through this comprehensive article, we learn that there are ways for recent graduates to remain in the US after their F-1 visa expires while they are no longer enrolled in college to complete an internship or gain practical work experience. After you graduate, you may be able to lawfully remain in the US with the help of an Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension or STEM OPT extension to your F-1 visa. 

Have further queries about staying back and post-study work visa in the US? Get in touch with our US study experts today to find out all about your scope of staying back in the US.

Find Out If You Qualify for the Graduate Route to the USA!


What is the stay back period in USA after completion of masters?

The stay back period in USA after completion of masters is up to 12 months or a year. However, for this, students must:

  • Continue to have a valid or lawful F-1 visa.

  • Submit an OPT application before completing all of the prerequisites for their degree.

Also, after graduating, students with US student visas are eligible for a 24-month work permit in the US, plus an extra 12 months under OPT.

What does a post-study work visa in USA mean?

International students who want to stay in the country after finishing their studies need a post-study work visa in USA. After completing their bachelor's or master's degrees, individuals with F1 visas are permitted to remain in the country for up to a year. The USA offers a variety of visa alternatives that allow international students to work during or after the completion of their studies.

Can I get a green card after completing studying in the USA?

Yes, you can a green card after completing studying in the USA. It is doable to redirect a student visa to a green card. A 24-month extension of their post-graduation OPT authorisation to work may be available to international students who earned degrees in specific scientific, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects.

Does the US give a work permit after the completion of the study?

Yes, the US does give a work permit after the completion of the study. Once students complete their degree, they can stay in the USA for a year after receiving the F1 visa. The Optional Practical Training (OPT) programme allows international students to stay and work in the United States for a complete year if they have an F1 visa.

How long can I stay in USA with an F1 visa?

You can stay in USA with an F1 visa for as long as 60 days after the completion of your coursework. F1 students are required to maintain the required course load to remain enrolled full-time. Unless they have applied for and been granted permission to stay and work for a while under the OPT Programme, they may stay in the US for up to 60 days after their academic programme is completed.

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