While for most immigrant students, working is not allowed as a part of their visa requirements. However, select immigrant students are eligible to work while in the United States . These individuals are those traveling and studying in the U.S. under the F-1 Visa.
F-1 visas are granted to those wishing to further their academic studies or attend language training programs. F-1 visa holders must have been accepted into a college, university, or vocational school and be enrolled as a full-time student. Although these are not work visas, F-1 visa students may be eligible for restricted work authorization during and/or after completion of their education through CPT, OPT, or STEM OPT.
Curricular Practical Training, or CPT, is offered to F-1 Visa students after they complete their first year of study. This allows the student to take part in work-study at their university. CPT can be part- or full-time work. If a student works full-time for 12 months under CPT, then they will be ineligible for working under OPT.
Optional Practical Training, or OPT, allows F-1 Visa students to work in a field related to their study off campus while still working towards their degree. They can work full time for 12 months for each level of their education, for example:
- Full-time employment for 12 months as an undergraduate,
- Full-time employment for 12 months as a graduate, and
- Full-time employment for 12 months as a post-graduate.
This work option is for students who have graduated with a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics. STEM OPT allows an extension of working for an additional 24 months. So, between the 12 months of post-graduate work and the additional 24 months of STEM OPT, F-1 visa students with qualifying degrees, can work a total of 36 months.