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A complete Guide on Post Study Work Permits in the USA

Updated on 11 October, 2023

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad abroad Editorial Team

The United States of America tops the list of the most desirable countries to settle in. It is one of the most coveted destinations for those wishing to start their careers abroad. One of the important things that students who wish to study in the USA and start a global career in the USA want to know is the process of getting a post-study work permit in the USA. The F1 visa issued for the duration of their graduation expires once they have graduated. For these students, the best option to legally extend their stay in the USA is to apply for an Optional Practical Training or OPT visa extension. The purpose of this visa extension is to provide the graduating students with the opportunity of gaining job experience or pursuing an internship. The students can legally extend their stay up to 12 months by applying for the OPT visa extension.


The OPT is differentiated from the Curricular Practical Training or CPT, as OPT can be completed before or after you graduate; however, the CPT must be completed before your graduation. One of the critical things to keep in mind is that the maximum length of the OPT can be 12 months. If you have already completed your OPT before graduation, you will not be able to apply for the extension under the OPT visa extension. The only way for you to become eligible for the 12 months of OPT is if you re-enroll in a graduate program.

Suppose you are a student of any science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) field. In that case, you can get an additional 12 months visa extension under the STEM OPT extension going up to 24 months. These extensions can help you get the much-required relief if you wish to join work after your F1 visa expiry until you get a job and get your H1B visa, issued for continuing work in the US on temporary employment status. 

Read on to know how to apply for an extension under the OPT and prepare to have a work visa for yourself so that you may continue working in the USA.

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Requirements for getting a post-study work permit in the USA:

The first step to getting a valid post-study work permit is to ensure that you have your F1 visa in place since it enables you to apply for OPT visa extension for one year after your course completion. Here are the critical requirements of the F1 visa to apply successfully.

  • The first and foremost thing to ensure before admission into an educational institution is that the school, college, or university must have the approval of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, also called USCIS.
  • Your enrolment into the course or program must be as a full-time and regular student.
  • The student must be proficient in English through an English language proficiency test.
  • The candidate must possess the funds to support them throughout their studies in the US, including the living expenses.

Once you have been admitted into an educational institution of your choice while meeting the above criteria, you can initiate the process of applying for an F1 visa. Below are the steps to follow for an F1 visa. 

  • Once you have successfully admitted to an institution carrying approval of SEVP, you will be sent your SEVIS-ID and form I-20, which is the Certificate of Eligibility for non-immigrant Student Status.
  • You can now pay the I-901 SEVIS fee online and proceed to the nearest US Embassy or Consulate to apply for your International Student visa.
  • The next step is to fill out the online non-immigrant Visa Application form (DSI-160) and upload the required documents.
  • You can now proceed to schedule your interview for a visa application with the US Embassy or Consulate closest to you. While preparing, you can make the payment of the USD 160 visa application fees.
  • On the scheduled date, go ahead with the interview at the designated US Embassy or Consulate. The outcome of this interview would decide whether your visa application is accepted.

As you finish your graduation and your F1 visa gets over, you can apply for the OPT extension.

A post-study work visa is one of the most crucial considerations for students who plan to pursue higher education in the USA. Three different student visas—the F1 visa, the M1 visa, and the J1 visa—allow students to remain in the US for a set amount of time after finishing their studies.

International students with an F1 student visa are permitted to work up to a year in temporary positions closely related to their primary subject of study. After finishing their studies, F1 visa holders can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

After finishing your course, you are allowed to stay in the US for a year on an F1 visa.

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How to Obtain an OPT Permit

The Designated School Official (DSO) at your university must first recommend your application for OPT. An international student’s status is managed and assisted by a DSO. You must successfully finish a certification process at your university to be nominated. The OPT I-20 request form must be submitted to the International Services Office. This form is available for download from the website of your university. A new I-20 immigration form will be generated after your university submits your request to SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) and it is approved.

For the OPT extension, you do not need a job offer. Your employment, however, must be aligned with your field of study.

When an overseas student completes a degree program in the US, they are eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT), a one-year work and stay-back permit. There are two sorts of OPT: Post-Completion OPT, which begins after one’s studies are completed, and Pre-Completion OPT, which can be used while one is still in college.

Pre-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT):

After being accepted for full-time study at a college or university approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to accept F-1 students, you can apply for pre-completion OPT. The course must last for at least 12 months. You are permitted to work 20 hours per week throughout the academic year as a part-time employee. You may put in a full day’s work throughout the holidays.

Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT):

After finishing your education, you can apply for post-completion OPT. Your chosen career path must be directly related to the topic of study you are studying once you graduate. Within 90 days of graduating, you must secure employment.

Nine months after beginning their education, a student can apply for OPT. However, receiving an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS is the only way to start working. Those who enrolled for at least a year are given an EAD. Without a job offer, one may apply for an EAD and engage in OPT employment throughout the United States.

OPT Extension: A new regulation permits a 24-month extension for students enrolled in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) courses who may stay in the USA for three years after completing their program of study. Graduates may remain and work for an additional two years in a STEM-related field or area thanks to the STEM OPT extension.

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If you want OPT, when should you apply?

Before completing your STEM Degree

You have up to three months (90 days) before the end of the academic year to apply. When your DSO submits the recommendation for OPT in your SEVIS record, you can apply for pre-completion OPT for a STEM degree.

Post completing your STEM Degree

You may apply up to 90 days before your degree’s completion but no later than 60 days afterward. When your DSO submits the recommendation for OPT in your SEVIS record, you can apply for post-completion OPT for a STEM degree. Additionally, you must submit your application within 30 days following the information’s entry.

Before completing a Non – STEM Degree

You have up to three months (90 days) before the end of the academic year to apply. After your DSO submits the recommendation for OPT in your SEVIS record, you can apply for pre-completion OPT for non-STEM degrees.

Post completing Non-STEM Degree

You may apply up to 90 days before your degree’s completion but no later than 60 days afterward. After your DSO submits the recommendation for OPT in your SEVIS record, you can apply for post-completion OPT for Non-Stem degrees. Within 30 days of the information’s entry, you must apply.

Extending OPT for STEM Degree

You have up to 90 days to apply before your current OPT permit expires. You must submit an application for a STEM OPT extension after your DSO records their recommendation for OPT in your SEVIS record. Additionally, you must submit your application within 60 days of entering the information.

Interview tips for landing a job in the USA

When it comes to landing the dream internship or job in the United States, it helps to keep a few interview tips in mind. Here are some tips to guide you in your preparation:

  • Optimize your resume – Customize your resume according to your industry and the job that you wish to apply for. Do include the industry terms so that you can make the resume relevant and get the resume vetted by your professor or other experts.
  • Dress right – Every industry has a dressing norm and dressing right plays a crucial part in creating the first impression. Research a bit and get the dressing right so that you are not over or under-dressed for the occasion.
  • Good eye contact – Maintaining good eye contact shows your confidence and can be one of the best ways of building rapport with the interviewer. Establish trust early in the interview with the right amount of eye contact and do practice if you need to get it right.
  • Practice the handshake –Most US employers would appreciate and expect a firm handshake, as it is one of the culturally significant ways of making a positive impression. Practice your handshake to make sure you do not offer a bone crusher or a limp fish.
  • Emphasize using body language – Your body language plays an important part in communicating to the interviewer that you are the right person for the job. Use open body language and gestures to display your confident side. Practice how you stand and sit so that your posture is maintained throughout the interview. 
  • Upsell the education and qualification – Include all the relevant education and other certifications that can help in strengthening your candidature. American culture does not look down on the candidates who positively showcase their ability and competence, so do not feel shy away from highlighting your accomplishments.
  • Speak positively about your homeland – Some of the students may site the many difficulties faced in their home country and the difficult situations there when the employer asks them about their motivation for coming to the US. While it is great to speak highly of the opportunities presented in the US, it is not advisable to talk negatively of your home country.
  • Practice common questions – Do prepare answers to the common interview questions such as introducing yourself, talking about your strengths and weaknesses, and the reason for your interest in the position or company. This will not only make your answers better prepared but also help you feel more confident.

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What is the cost of a USA student visa application?

The USA student visa application price is $160. Pay fees in advance for your interview.


Which cities and towns in India have visa issuing posts?

The cities of Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata all have visa-issuing posts.


Do students taking STEM courses to have access to an extension?

Students enrolled in STEM studies are given a 24-month extension. After completing your course, you can stay in the USA for an additional three years.


What kinds of USA visas are relevant for students among the various ones?

From a student’s standpoint, three USA visas are essential. Students who wish to study at a college or university in the USA are granted an F-1 student visa. There is a J student visa available for academic exchange programs. A non-academic or occupational course of study or training is permitted with the M student visa.


What documentation is needed to obtain a student visa for the USA?

A valid passport, acceptance into a SEVP-approved institution, the I-20 Form, the SEVIS I-901 application fee, the Form DS-160 (online non-immigrant visa application), photos, and other materials are some of the requirements for your USA student visa application.


Do I need to submit any additional paperwork with my visa application?

During your visa interview, you must bring your transcripts, degrees, school certificates, test results, proof of your finances, etc., and the regular application paperwork.





upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad abroad Editorial Team

We are a dedicated team of study-abroad experts, ensuring intensive research and comprehensive information in each of our blogs. With every piece written, we aim at simplifying the overseas education process for all. Our diverse experience as journalists, content writers, editors, content strategists, and marketers helps create the most relevant and authentic blogs for our readers.

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