What Employers Need to Know about Optional Practical Training (OPT) of Foreign Students

Due to the large number of foreign students that are studying in the United States. Employers need to know about Optional practical training (OPT) and the option for temporarily employing a foreign student once they graduate from a U.S. university if they work in their major area of study. According to USCIC, eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion). However, all periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT. Read more.

  • The OPT is a benefit of a foreign student’s F-1 visa status and not a separate work visa or visa category.
  •  During OPT, the worker remains on their F-1 student visa status and must abide by all F-1 regulations during the OPT.
  • The University remains the sponsor of the OPT student and oversees the employment authorization time period.
  • F1 Students can perform internships (paid and unpaid) during the OPT, and can perform more than one position at the same time. Each employer must employ the student for at least 20 hours per week. 
  • Each employer must also sign and agree to all the reporting requirements on Form I-983.
  • OPT must be used directly after graduation; it cannot be saved for later.
  • A student can not start to work until after they receive their EAD card and reach the start date on the card.
  • Read more good Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from a University.

For students with degrees in certain science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, they may apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT employment authorization, if they: (1) are an F-1 student who received a STEM degree included on the STEM Designated Degree Program List (PDF); (2) are employed by an employer who is enrolled in and is using E-Verify; and (3) received an initial grant of post-completion OPT employment authorization based on your STEM degree. More information, and how students can apply for OPT is available on the USCIS link above.

For employers, here is some USCIS guidance on how to complete the Form 983. Here is some information for STEM OPT employers from NYU. Here is the Form 983 and Instructions booklet.

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