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1 July 2023

7 minutes read

How Many Years Can We Work After MS in the USA

Key Takeaways

  • OPT offers up to 36 months of U.S. work for international students, especially STEM majors.
  • H-1B visas provide specialty occupation employment with an annual cap.
  • Green Cards grant permanent residency, needing employer sponsorship and eligibility.
  • Legal status maintenance is vital through OPT, H-1B, and Green Card applications.
  • Early preparation and understanding of visa rules are key for post-study U.S. employment success.

For many international students, the journey to the United States is fueled by not only the pursuit of higher education but also the aspiration to gain valuable work experience in the world’s largest economy.

The prospect of post-study work in the USA offers a unique opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge to practical scenarios, paving the way for a robust professional career.

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Why is a Post-Study Work Permit Important?

  • Integration into the Workforce: A post-study work permit allows international students to seamlessly transition from academic life to professional environments.
  • Cultural and Professional Adaptation: Working in the US post-graduation provides exposure to American corporate culture and work ethics.
  • Networking and Career Growth: It opens doors to vast networks and career opportunities, essential for long-term professional success.

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Optional Practical Training (OPT) Explained

optional practical training (opt) explained

Did You Know?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reports that over 200,000 international students participate in the OPT program annually, highlighting its significance in the U.S. education and employment landscape.

What is OPT?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a program that permits international students with F-1 visas to work in the USA in their field of study for up to 12 months following graduation.

For those with a degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields, this can be extended by an additional 24 months, offering a total of 36 months of work experience in the USA.

Eligibility for OPT:

CriteriaEligibility for OPT
Visa StatusMust be on an F-1 student visa
Educational RequirementEnrolled in an accredited college or university
Duration of StudyMust have completed at least one full academic year
Field of StudyAny field (STEM fields qualify for an extension)
Job RelevanceThe job must be directly related to the student’s major area of study
Application TimingUp to 90 days before and 60 days after program end date

Applying for OPT:

  • Check Eligibility: Ensure you meet all the criteria for OPT, including being an F-1 student and completing one full academic year.
  • Consult Your International Student Office: Before applying, consult with your school’s International Student Office for guidance and a recommendation.
  • Complete Form I-765: Fill out the USCIS Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Ensure all information is accurate and complete.
  • Gather Required Documents: Compile documents such as your passport, I-94 record, two passport-style photos, and your most recent I-20.
  • Write a Cover Letter: Include a cover letter explaining your request for OPT and how it relates to your field of study.
  • Pay the Application Fee: Ensure you pay the correct filing fee for the I-765 application. Check the latest fee on the USCIS website.
  • Submit the Application: Mail your completed application packet to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox facility.
  • Track Your Application: Once submitted, track your application status online using the receipt number provided by USCIS.
  • Wait for Employment Authorization Document (EAD): After approval, you will receive your EAD card, which is necessary to begin working.
  • Report Employment to Your School: Once you secure employment, inform your International Student Office as your OPT status requires you to report your work.
  • Abide by OPT Rules and Regulations: While on OPT, adhere to all rules, including working in your field of study and not exceeding the allowed period of unemployment.

The OPT program not only benefits international students but also enriches the U.S. workforce with diverse talents and perspectives.

– American Council on Education

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Navigating the H-1B Visa Pathway

navigating the h-1b visa pathway
StepDescription
Understand the H-1B VisaRecognize that the H-1B is for temporary employment in specialty occupations in the U.S.
Check Eligibility CriteriaEnsure having a bachelor’s degree or equivalent and a job offer in a specialty occupation.
Find a Sponsoring EmployerSecure a job with a U.S. employer willing to sponsor your H-1B visa.
Labor Condition Application (LCA)Employers must file an LCA with the Department of Labor for wage and working condition details.
Prepare the H-1B Visa PetitionFile Form I-129 with the approved LCA and supporting documents.
Understand the Cap and Lottery SystemBe aware of the annual cap and the lottery system if the number of applicants exceeds the cap.
Be Mindful of the Application TimelineThe application period typically begins on April 1st for the fiscal year starting October 1st.
Maintain Status While WaitingIf on OPT, ensure maintaining your status while your H-1B petition is pending.
Change of Status (COS)If in the U.S., your employer can request a COS from F-1 to H-1B without leaving the country.
Prepare for Possible H-1B InterviewDepending on the situation, an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate may be required.
Stay Informed About Visa ApprovalOnce approved, start working on H-1B status from October 1st or as per the approval notice.

Tips for a Successful H-1B Visa Application

  • Start Early: Begin your H-1B application process well in advance. The cap is quickly reached, so timely preparation is crucial.
  • Find the Right Employer: Look for employers known for sponsoring H-1B visas, especially those familiar with the process and willing to support your application.
  • Ensure Job Matches Your Qualifications: The job offer should closely match your field of study and work experience to justify the specialty occupation requirement.
  • Gather Comprehensive Documentation: Compile all necessary documents, including academic records, work experience certificates, and any relevant professional licenses or certifications.
  • Accurate LCA Filing: Ensure your employer accurately completes the Labor Condition Application, detailing your role, salary, and working conditions.
  • Prepare a Strong Petition: Work with your employer to prepare a compelling H-1B petition. This should include detailed job descriptions and evidence of your qualifications.
  • Stay Updated on Policy Changes: Immigration policies can change. Stay informed about any updates or revisions to H-1B visa regulations.
  • Consider Premium Processing: If timing is critical, consider using the USCIS Premium Processing Service for a faster response, though it involves an additional fee.
  • Maintain Legal Status: If you’re in the U.S. on another visa type, maintain your legal status throughout the application process.
  • Be Prepared for RFEs: If you receive a Request for Evidence (RFE), respond thoroughly and promptly with the required information.
  • Plan for Multiple Attempts: Due to the lottery system, not all applications are selected. Be prepared to reapply or explore alternative visa options if necessary.
  • Seek Professional Advice: If needed, consult with an immigration attorney for advice tailored to your specific situation and for assistance with complex cases.

Navigating the H-1B visa process requires patience and perseverance, but it’s a critical step for international students aspiring to work in the U.S.

– National Foundation for American Policy

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How to Settle in the USA After MS

how to settle in usa after ms

Understanding the Green Card Process

StepDescription
Green Card BasicsGrants permanent residency in the USA, allowing indefinite living and working in the country.
Eligibility CategoriesDetermine if eligible under categories like employment-based, family-sponsored, refugee, or diversity lottery.
Employment-Based Green CardsMost common for students/workers; requires a job offer and employer sponsorship.
PERM Labor CertificationEmployers may need to obtain this certification to demonstrate no suitable U.S. workers for the position.
File Form I-140Employer files this on your behalf, establishing the basis for your application.
Priority Date and Visa BulletinMonitor your priority date and Visa Bulletin for visa availability based on category and country.
Adjustment of Status or Consular ProcessingFile Form I-485 for status adjustment if in the U.S., or undergo consular processing if abroad.
Biometrics AppointmentAttend fingerprinting and photographing.
Interview and Required DocumentsPrepare for an interview and gather documents like employment records and proof of legal status.
Receive Your Green CardIf approved, you will be granted permanent resident status in the U.S.

Eligibility and Application Strategies

  • Determine Your Eligibility Category: Identify which Green Card category you fit into – employment-based, family-sponsored, asylum, or diversity lottery. Each category has its specific requirements.
  • Understand the Job Offer Requirement: For employment-based Green Cards, ensure you have a valid job offer from a U.S. employer willing to sponsor your application.
  • Prepare a Strong Application: Compile a comprehensive application package with all required documentation, such as proof of employment, qualifications, and legal status in the U.S.
  • Meet the Education/Work Experience Requirements: For most categories, you must have the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree or higher, or substantial work experience in your field.
  • Seek Employer Support for PERM Labor Certification: In certain employment-based categories, your employer must complete the PERM Labor Certification process, proving that there are no suitable U.S. workers for your position.
  • File the I-140 Petition Timely: Have your employer file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, as soon as possible to establish your basis for a Green Card and set your priority date.
  • Keep Track of the Visa Bulletin: Regularly check the U.S. Visa Bulletin to see when a visa becomes available for your category and country of origin.
  • Choose Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing: Decide whether to adjust your status in the U.S. (if applicable) or proceed through consular processing in your home country.
  • Be Prepared for Delays and Setbacks: The Green Card process can be lengthy and complex. Be prepared for potential delays and respond promptly to any requests from USCIS.
  • Consider Legal Assistance: Given the complexity of immigration law, consider consulting with an immigration attorney for guidance and to increase the likelihood of a successful application.
  • Maintain Legal Status: Ensure you maintain your legal status in the U.S. throughout the application process, especially if you are already in the country on a different visa.

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Conclusion

Embarking on the journey of post-study work in the USA marks a significant milestone for international students. This experience not only enhances your professional skills but also immerses you in a diverse cultural landscape, offering a broader perspective on both your career and life.

While navigating the visa processes and work permit regulations may seem daunting, proper planning and adherence to guidelines can lead to a rewarding post-graduate work experience.

Remember, the key to success lies in early preparation, staying informed, and utilizing the resources available to you. Embrace this opportunity to grow, network, and lay a strong foundation for your future career.

Chart your course to academic success with Ambitio – Study in USA companion! Join a global family, learn from the brightest minds, and embark on hands-on adventures. Your educational journey begins now – Explore Top USA Universities.

FAQs

How long can I stay in the USA to work after completing my MS?

You can stay for up to 12 months on OPT, with an additional 24 months if you have a STEM degree.

Is it possible to switch from an F-1 student visa to a work visa in the USA?

Yes, students often transition from an F-1 visa to an H-1B work visa after their OPT.

Can I apply for a work permit after completing an MBA in the USA?

Yes, MBA graduates are eligible for OPT, allowing them to work in the USA for up to 12 months post-graduation.

What are the requirements for the STEM OPT extension?

You must have a STEM degree, be on valid OPT, and have a job offer from an employer enrolled in E-Verify.

How early should I apply for OPT?

It’s advisable to apply up to 90 days before and up to 60 days after your program’s end date.

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