Staying in the US After Graduation as an Immigrant

The United States has thousands of international students studying in the US every single year. Every student wonders what happens after they graduate. Do I have to go back to my home country? Can I stay in the United States? Do I get a Green Card?

Thankfully the United States has a program that allows International Students to stay in the US after graduation for a certain amount of time.

Optional Practicing Training (OPT) for International Students

The OPT is a program that allows eligible students to receive up to 12 months or 1 year of work for students holding F-1 Visas. It allows International Students to stay in the United States for up to a year after graduation to give them time to look for US employment.

How to Qualify for OPT

There are several requirements in order to qualify for Optional Practicing Training:

  • be in full-time F-1 status for at least one academic year
  • be seeking employment in the major field of study listed on their diploma
  • be completing their program of study at US college or university
  • be physically present in the United States at the time of the application to USCIS
  • NOT have used more than 1 year of full-time CPT during their current degree level (part-time doesn’t count)

When to Apply for the OPT

If you qualify for the OPT then you may wonder when you should apply for the Optional Practicing Training. You can start applying for the OPT up to 90 days before and 60 days after your graduation date.

How to Apply for the OPT

Step 1

Review the OPT requirements to make sure you qualify before applying

Step 2

Request that your Designated School Official (DSO) at your college or university recommend the OPT. Your DSO will file your recommendation by endorsing your Form 1-20 (Certification of Elibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status).

Step 3

File the Form 1-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with USCIS.

Step 4

Add the required fees and supporting documents to the application.

OPT Processing Time

The USCIS estimated processing time for OPT applications is between 2.5 and 5 months.

News Update on the OPT for International Students 2020

Most recently during May 2020 the United States released that they may suspend the OPT program.

“Suspending or ending OPT makes no practical sense — it solves no problem, it reduces the quality of America’s higher education system, and it threatens the international exchange of ideas so vital to academic freedom,”

Julie Schmid, executive director of the American Association of University Professors.

The OPT has not been suspended yet but we will update this page if the United States does end up suspending the OPT in 2020.

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