Over time, American colleges and universities have seen increasing enrollments of full-time foreign students who are pursuing an education here under the F-1 visa program. Many of these students are highly-trained and can add a lot to the U.S. economy. Thus, they also have legal avenues to obtain “optional practical training” (“OPT”) in a job related to their field of study through the procurement of “employment authorization documents” known as EADs.
OPT is permitted for a period of up to 12 months per educational level attained (bachelor’s, master’s, etc), and graduates in government-designated fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can obtain OPT extensions of an additional 17 months.
Basically, an interested F-1 visa student must obtain an OPT recommendation from a “designated school official” (“DSO”) on a Form I-20, and timely mail the application and supporting documentation to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). The student then must wait for his or her EAD before starting employment in their field of study.
If you are a foreign student applying for an EAD, it can be helpful to have an attorney to help you disentangle the regulations, but here are some of the key deadlines and forms involved in the process:
The student must properly file his or her Form I-765 up to 90 days prior to his or her program end-date and no later than 60 days after the end date.
The student must also file the Form I-765 with the USCIS within 30 days of the date the DSO enters an OPT recommendation into the automated Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (“SEVIS”).
The Form I-765 also requires that a Form I-20 submitted with Form I-765 must be endorsed by the DSO within the past 30 days.
If you are a student interested in job training, you might also want to consult your school’s Website for helpful instructions pertinent to OPT opportunities. Many schools have helpful Web pages, such as that of Columbia University in New York.
We can help students who have questions about immigration and work-related opportunities in the U.S. For more information about how we might be of assistance, call our office at (847) 564-0712 to make an appointment to speak with a qualified attorney, or check out our immigration law Website for more information.