Students under OPT status do not need a new work visa if they do not leave the United States

The US Mission to India recently announced that a record 82,000 student visas were issued in 2022 and Indian students received more US student visas than any other country. Even as the number of Indian students traveling to campuses in the United States is increasing, the number of optional practical training visas has also seen a sharp increase in recent years. For Indian students, OPT is an option to work in the United States after graduation. According to the November 2020 Open Doors survey, which tracks the number of international students, 81,173 Indian students were enrolled in the OPT program.
International students on F-1 visas at US universities are eligible for OPT, a temporary job directly related to the candidate’s major field of study. F-1 visa students completing their courses in the United States do not need a job offer to apply for the OPT. The candidate can work for more than one employer or job, but all jobs must be related to the degree program they have studied. Employment must be at least 20 hours per week.
While all international students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their university studies (post-completion); the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) The OPT program allows F-1 students earning a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in certain fields to stay in the United States for up to 36 months to work in their field of study . To be eligible for the 24-month OPT STEM extension, the candidate must be employed by, or have a job offer, from an employer registered with the E-Verify employment verification system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with Social Security. This job must be paid and full-time.
Even though the OPT offers Indian students the opportunity to stay in the United States after completing their degree programs; applicants must maintain legal F-1 OPT status throughout the period of employment. “Evidence must be obtained from the employer to verify that persons under OPT status have worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment. Once the OPT period after course completion begins, one must not accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment within the dates indicated on the EAD (employment authorization document),” says an immigration lawyer based in Mumbai and Florida Poorvi Chothani. Post-completion OPT is any part of the OPT used after the student’s program end date, while pre-completion is any part of the OPT used before the student’s program end date. student.
Chothani adds that applicants must submit an OPT update and report employment on the student portal of the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) in order to stop unemployment counting in the job exchange system. student and visitor information. “Any time spent outside the United States, if not employed by a US employer, counts toward the 90-day unemployment period.
Unemployment days are cumulative, so if the OPT holder is employed for less than the duration of the OPT and starts looking for another employer, they don’t get an additional 90 days of unemployment,” says Chothani.
Those who have not been unemployed for 90 days of post-completion OPT or 150 days of post-completion and STEM OPT extension periods are granted a 60-day grace period after completion of OPT . “This grace period is intended to allow time to prepare for departure from the United States, unless the OPT visa holder successfully adapts their status to another type of visa or has registered for another approved graduate program,” Chothani said.
In a recent interview given to a news agency, the adviser to the American Minister for Consular Affairs in India, Don Heflin, said Indian students who are in the United States with the OPT and returning to India should obtain a visa stamped in their passport before returning to the United States. This summer, Indian students on F1 OPT visas, who travel to India, have benefited from the flexibility of drop box appointments, which means they do not have to appear for interviews. visa in person to have their passport stamped. However, Indian students in the United States, who are approved for OPT and who have valid Work Authorization (EAD) and student visa status from both their university and Citizenship and Immigration Services of the United States (USCIS), do not need to obtain a new visa if they do not leave the United States.
F-1 OPT holders can change their status to other visa categories. “Frequently, OPT holders change their status to H-1B work visas depending on whether they wish to continue working with their OPT employer who is willing to sponsor them or whether they have found a new employer who is willing to sponsor their H-1B. In any case, they will have to be selected in the H-1B lottery, ”says Chothani.
While the OPT is a benefit of F-1 status that allows students to work for one year (possibly longer if the student is eligible for an extension), H-1B is a separate nonimmigrant classification specifically for employment. The sponsoring employer must file for an H-1B visa as a “change in status” within a stipulated time. “Generally, once the H-1B visa application is approved, the student’s status changes from F-1 (OPT) to H-1B starting October 1 of this year. It is not necessary to obtain a visa stamp to begin working on H-1B status. However, if the person leaves the United States, they will need a new H-1B visa to return to the United States to work with H-1B status,” explains Chothani.


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