What are US visa options for F-1 students on OPT?
- By Nisha Karnani
- August 12, 2014
- Nonimmigrant Visas
What is OPT?
Foreign students in the US on F-1 visas are usually eligible for a one year work permit after graduation, referred to as Optional Practical Training or OPT. F-1 students request OPT through their school’s international student office. If you are a F-1 student with a STEM degree (i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering, Math fields), you may be eligible for a 17 month STEM extension through an employer enrolled in E-verify.
How do I stay in the US after my OPT expires?
F-1 students typically stay in the US through an employer’s visa sponsorship. Improve your odds by being a model employee while working on OPT, and learn the skills and technology that are sought-after in your industry. Employers are more inclined to sponsor a valuable and well-trained employee. Also, consult with a qualified immigration attorney early to assess your options, and have them speak with your employer directly. Most employers are not familiar with US immigration law, so this conversation can help your employer understand what to expect and dispel any myths.
The most common employment-based visa filed for F-1 students on OPT is the H-1B temporary work visa for professionals in a specialty occupation. This visa typically involves a lottery filing on April 1st.
Other visa options we have utilized for our F-1 student clients include:
- TN visa (certain professional positions for citizens of Canada or Mexico)
- E-3 visa (certain professional positions for nationals of Australia)
- H-1B1 visa (certain professional positions for citizens of Singapore or Chile)
- E-2 / E-1 visa (nationals of countries with particular treaty relationships with the US for treaty traders, treaty investors or qualified employees)
- L-1 visa (transfer of certain managers, executives or specialized knowledge employees from an international company to a related qualifying US company)
- J-1 visa (filed through U.S. Department of State designated Exchange Visitor Programs, some allowing employment)
- O-1 visa (individuals with certain extraordinary ability or achievements)
- EB-1 Green card (for extraordinary ability, outstanding professor or researcher, multinational manager/executive)
- EB-2 Green card (for exceptional ability, national interest waiver, and advanced degrees)
- EB-3 Green card (as with some EB-2 cases involves labor certification process to determine whether there are willing and able minimally qualified US workers for the position)
Bear in mind this is a non-exhaustive list of employment-based options. Significantly, some EB-2 and EB-3 green card cases may require departure from the U.S. or an interim temporary work visa depending on the visa backlogs in those categories. See http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin for current backlog information.
What if no employer is willing or able to sponsor me for a work visa?
If you do not have a willing employer, or do not qualify for an employment-based visa or green card, you should contact a qualified immigration attorney to evaluate any other options that might be available. In some cases, our F-1 clients have been eligible for:
- Family/marriage based petitions;
- Visas for victims of domestic violence or other crimes;
- DACA for certain individuals who entered the U.S. as children;
- Asylum if there is a fear of persecution in the home country;
- Other humanitarian or deportation relief.
Note the above is a non-exhaustive list of options. Each case is different, and one small detail can change your eligibility.
Speak to the Professional Atlanta Immigration Attorneys at Antonini & Cohen Today
Contact the attorneys at Antonini & Cohen to assess your particular circumstances. We can point out your available options, potential pitfalls, and what to expect in the process.
It schedule a consultation today, please call us at 404.850.9394 or complete a contact form.