As more and more students choose to study abroad, especially in the US, many more are choosing to work while and after their studies. In the US, international students need to apply for the OPT programme in order to be eligible to work after their studies in the country.
The US mission in India recently announced that, in 2022, a record 82,000 visas have been issued to Indian students. An Open Doors report revealed that 81,173 Indian students enrolled in the OPT programme.
According to the regulations, international students on an F-1 visa in the USA will be able to work in a field related to their field of study. Students will be able to work with more than one employer, however, they must ensure that all their jobs are related to their field of study. Moreover, they must work a minimum of 20 hours per week.
Among the provisions provided for international students, they will receive 12 months wherein they will be able to work. They can do so either before they complete their studies (pre-completion) and/or after their studies (post-completion). However, students on an F-1 visa studying one of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields, will be eligible for a 24-month extension.
Candidates interested in applying for the OPT extension must be employed or have a job offer from an employer registered with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-operated E-verify employment verification system. Moreover, the job offers or employment should be full-time and paid.
In addition to the requirements, all interested candidates must maintain a legal F-1 OPT status during the entire employment period. Additionally, the employers will be required to present proof that the OPT candidate has worked over 20 hours per week during the course of their employment. Candidates applying for the post-completion OPT should ensure that they do not remain unemployed for more than 90 days of receiving their Employment Authorisation Document, or EAD.
Poorvi Chothani, a Mumbai and Florida-based immigration lawyer, while speaking with TOI, revealed that those who have not been unemployed for 90 days of post-completion OPT or 150 days of post-completion and STEM OPT extension will be eligible for a 60-day grace period. This grace period has been offered to allow the individuals to prepare for departure from the US or enrol in another approved graduate programme or change their status to a different type of visa.
Don Heflin, US Minister Counsellor for consular affairs in India, Indian students in the USA on OPT, travelling back to their home country would have had to get a visa stamped on their passport before being able to enter the US again. However, with the dropbox appointment made available in India, students on an F-1 OPT, travelling back to the country will not be required to appear for the in-person interview and get their passports stamped.
He further added that students with an approved OPT and EAD along with a valid student visa status with their university and the USCIS will not have to get a new visa if they remain in the US.
Chothani also highlighted that F-1 OPT visa holders are allowed to change their visa status to other visa categories, popularly the H-1B visa categories. However, their employer or prospective employer should be willing to sponsor their H-1B visas and subsequently be selected through the H-1B lottery.
While working for a year, or possibly more, under the F-1 OPT status is an option, an H-1B is a separate non-immigrant visa status used primarily for employment purposes. Once the employer has filed a petition for the H-1B visa on your behalf and after the visa has been approved, the visa status of the student officially changes to H-1B from October 1 of the same year. However, unline F-1 OPT, candidates leaving the US will require a new H-1B to return and work in the country under the H-1B status.
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Source: The Times of India