The vast majority of Indian students look forward to a career in the U.S. after their education. The U.S offers excellent work environment, great career growth prospects that are financially very rewarding. So it is natural that students start applying for jobs even before they complete their coursework. Some students even go for short-term full time jobs even before the complete their degree. The Optional Practical Training allows you to work upto 12 months in the middle of your education.
Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students in F-1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than 9 months are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work for at most one year on a student visa without needing to acquire a work permit (H-1B visa) towards getting a practical training to complement their field of studies. F-1 students are permitted total of 29 months towards practical training, on being certified by the advisor of the usefulness of the work towards goals of the degree, which can be distributed between Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and OPT.
The OPT permit card (employment authorization document) can be obtained from USCIS before completion of a degree program through the university’s International Student Office or equivalent upon filing of the relevant form (I-765), payment of fee ($380), and sending copies of I-20, passport, visa and other required documentation. The process can take up to 4 months to complete.
An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT after he/she has been enrolled for one full academic year. The pre-completion OPT must be directly related to the student’s course of study. Students authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT must work part-time while school is in session. They may work full time when school is not in session.
An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in post-completion OPT upon completion of studies. The post-completion OPT must be directly related to the student’s course of study.
Curricular Practical Training
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an employment option available to F-1 students where the practical training employment is considered to be an integral part of the curriculum or academic program. According to the immigration regulations, this employment may be an internship, cooperative education job, a practicum, or any other work experience that is either required for your degree (as defined in the course catalog) or for which academic credit is awarded.
The ideal time to start looking for a job is at the end of second last semester. This gives you 4-5 months in which you could find a prospective employer in your specific field.
Apart from the job profile and the salary part Indian students should make sure that the employer will file an H1 B petition for them. Most govt. departments and many well-known companies do not do this.
The H1B Visa is the official and primary USA work visa / permit available to people from all over the world. The H1B is the most popular and sought after US work visa and US Immigration requires every foreign national to obtain a visa in order to legally work in America.
The US Government introduced the H1B visa to enable highly skilled international professionals and international students, from all over the world, the opportunity to live and work in the USA in specialty occupations. The regulations define a “specialty occupation” as requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavour including, but not limited to, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, law, accounting, business specialities, theology, and the arts, and requiring the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent as a minimum. Aside from documenting that the position offered is in a specialty occupation and that the employee has the appropriate credentials for the job, the employer needs to verify that the H1B visa worker is being paid the prevailing wage for the work being performed and that employment of a foreign worker is not harming conditions for US workers.
Likewise, the foreign worker must possess at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent and state licensure, if required to practice in that field. H-1B work-authorization is strictly limited to employment by the sponsoring employer. The duration of stay is three years, extendable to six. One of the main advantages of the H1B visa is that it is a ‘dual intent’ visa which means that you can apply for a Green Card (Legal Permanent Residency).
H-1B status requires a sponsoring U.S. employer. The employer must file a labor condition application (LCA) with the Department of Labor attesting to several items, including payment of prevailing wages for the position, and the working conditions offered. The employer must then file the certified LCA with a Form I-129 petition. Based on the USCIS petition approval, the alien may apply for the H-1B visa, admission, or a change of non-immigrant status.
Under current law, an alien can be in H-1B status for a maximum period of six years at a time. After that time an alien must remain outside the United States for one year before another H-1B petition can be approved. Certain aliens may obtain an extension of H-1B status beyond the 6-year maximum period, when:
365 days or more have passed since the filing of any application for labor certification
365 days or more have passed since the filing of an EB immigrant petition
H-1B aliens may only work for the petitioning U.S. employer and only in the H-1B activities described in the petition. The petitioning U.S. employer may place the H-1B worker on the worksite of another employer if all applicable rules (e.g., Department of Labor rules) are followed. H-1B aliens may work for more than one U.S. employer, but must have a Form I-129 petition approved by each employer.
As long as the alien continues to provide H-1B services for a U.S. employer, most changes will not mean that an alien is out of status. An alien may change H-1B employers without affecting status, but the new H-1B employer must file a new Form I-129 petition for the alien before he or she begins working for the new employer. The merger or sale of an H-1B employer’s business will not affect the alien’s status in many instances. However, if the change means that the alien is working in a capacity other than the specialty occupation for which they petitioned, it is a status violation.
An H-1B alien can be the beneficiary of an immigrant visa petition, apply for adjustment of status, or take other steps toward Lawful Permanent Resident status (Green Card) without affecting H-1B status. This is known as “dual intent” and has been recognized in the immigration laws.
There are many reasons why US employers wish to hire foreign national workers on H1B visas including: to help maintain their Global competitive advantage, to bring cultural diversity into the workplace, and the innovative and strong work ethics and practices that International workers possess. H1B workers also contribute highly to the US economy in numerous ways, help fill current labor shortages in many highly skilled professions and have been instrumental in contributing to the success of many of Americas largest and most prestigious corporations.