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A Guide to Post-Study Work Visa USA for International Graduates

Jan 20, 2024

A journey to study abroad is a dream for many, and the United States offers many opportunities for international students. This guide will delve into the crucial aspect of a post-study work visa USA, unraveling the pathways for graduates to turn their academic achievements into meaningful professional experiences.

Overview of Post-Study Work Visas

A post-study work visa USA is the gateway for international students to extend their stay in the USA beyond graduation. These visas are instrumental in allowing graduates to gain practical experience, contributing to their personal and professional growth. Navigating this landscape begins with understanding the Optional Practical Training (OPT) visa.


Post-Study Work Visa USA: OPT (Optional Practical Training) Visa

The OPT visa is a significant opportunity for students pursuing their dreams of studying abroad to gain hands-on experience in their chosen field. To be eligible, one must complete a degree from a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)-approved institution. The application process involves coordination with the designated school official (DSO), offering a chance to work for up to 12 months post-graduation. While OPT opens doors to professional growth, it is essential to note that it has benefits and limitations that applicants should be aware of.

  • Pre-Completion OPT: Eligible after achieving full-time enrolment in a SEVP-certified institution for F-1 students with a minimum 12-month course duration. If approved, it allows part-time work (up to 20 hours per week during classes) and full-time work during holidays.
  • Post-Completion OPT: Post-completion OPT becomes an option after completing studies.

When to Apply for OPT?

To be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) in the USA, individuals must ensure that their job post-graduation matches their field of study, and they should start looking for it within 90 days of finishing the course. The OPT application process can be initiated nine months after enrollment. However, individuals can only start working after receiving the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and being enrolled for at least a year. It is important to note that having a job is not necessarily required to apply for an EAD, and once obtained, they can work anywhere in the USA.


Post-Study Work Visa USA: STEM OPT Extension

The STEM OPT extension is a game-changer for individuals aspiring to study abroad and venturing into Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) fields. To be eligible, one must complete a qualifying STEM degree and an approved OPT period. This extension opens the door to an additional 24 months of work authorization, enabling graduates to immerse themselves further into their chosen field. Successfully navigating this extension requires careful planning and securing a job relevant to the STEM category, showcasing a commitment to advancing knowledge.

To extend STEM OPT employment authorization, a student should follow these steps:

  • Early Submission: Submit Form I-765 up to 90 days before the current OPT employment authorization expires.
  • Application Fee: Include the required application fee.
  • Employer Details: Provide the employer’s name as listed in E-Verify.
  • E-Verify Identification: Include the Employer’s E-Verify Company Identification Number or a valid E-Verify Client Company Identification Number.
  • STEM Degree Copy: Attach a copy of the student’s STEM degree.
  • Endorsed Form I-20: Submit Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, endorsed by the Designated School Official (DSO) within the last 60 days.

Extending OPT for Non-STEM Degrees

Suppose an individual with an F1 visa is completing a non-STEM program and wants to extend their OPT after graduation. In that case, they can use their previous degrees from a U.S. higher education institution. It is important to note that the standard post-completion OPT period is 12 months, and this extension provides an additional avenue for graduates to gain practical experience in their field. However, the application process and eligibility criteria for this extension should be carefully considered, and staying informed about the specific regulations governing non-STEM OPT extensions is crucial for a successful application. Graduates can explore this option to enhance their professional journey further and make the most of their post-study work USA opportunities.

Post-Study Work Visa USA: H-1B Work Visa

As graduates advance, contemplating shifting from OPT to the H-1B work visa becomes a significant consideration. This pathway necessitates employer sponsorship and adherence to eligibility criteria. While the H-1B visa extends the stay in the USA, comprehending its advantages and disadvantages is essential. Successfully navigating this transition demands strategic planning and a comprehensive understanding of the application process. Additionally, being aware of the intricacies of the US Student Visa and its transition to the H-1B work visa is vital for a seamless and successful professional journey in the United States.


Navigating the U.S. Job Market with an H-1B Visa

Working in the U.S. with an H-1B Visa, as part of the post-study work visa USA opportunities, means foreign nationals can join American companies. To qualify, candidates need a job offer from a U.S.-based company, and the job must require specialized knowledge and skills typically associated with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The employer, not the candidate, applies for the H-1B visa with the U.S. Immigration Department. Once approved, the candidate receives a work permit and a visa stamp to work in the U.S. for that specific employer.

Maintaining Legal Status While on OPT/STEM OPT

Compliance with the regulations is paramount for international graduates, especially when considering post-study work visa USA opportunities through Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT. This section highlights the rules and regulations governing F-1 status, emphasizing the importance of maintaining legal standing. Violations come with consequences, making it essential for graduates to stay informed and adhere to the stipulated guidelines. Additionally, insights into the status of dependent family members under F-2 are explored. Graduates must understand and navigate these aspects to ensure a smooth and successful transition to the professional landscape in the U.S.



In conclusion, the journey from international student to working professional in the USA, particularly in post-study work visa USA, involves navigating a complex web of visas and regulations. Understanding the nuances of OPT, STEM OPT extensions, and potential transitions to an H-1B visa is vital. As graduates embark on this transformative journey, staying informed and compliant ensures a seamless transition from academia to the professional realm. Navigating these pathways opens up exciting opportunities for international graduates to contribute their skills and expertise to the diverse and dynamic landscape of the U.S. workforce.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I apply for a post-study work visa in the USA if I graduated several years ago?

Post-study work visas are generally designed for recent graduates, but alternative visas like H-1B may suit experienced professionals.


What if My OPT Expires Before I Find a Job?

In case of unemployment after OPT expiration, there is a grace period of 60 days to find employment.

Can I Travel Outside the USA During My Post Study Work Period?

Yes, you can travel, but ensure you have the necessary documents for re-entry, including a valid visa and Employment Authorization Document (EAD).


Is It Possible to Change Employers While on OPT?

Yes, you can change employers, but it is crucial to notify your Designated School Official (DSO), and the new job should align with your field of study.

Are there restrictions on the Types of jobs I can take during my post-study work period?

There are no specific restrictions on the type of job, but it should be related to your field of study.

Post Study Work Visa USA


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