OPT (Optional Practical Training) is a 12-month work authorization program for international students that allows them to gain professional experience in their chosen field of study. Students may apply for OPT either during their degree program or post-graduation.
OPT may involve unpaid and paid work opportunities anywhere within the U.S. Students on OPT must report their employment to ISSS monthly.
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1. It’s a great way to get experience
OPT allows graduates to gain work experience in their field of study after graduation. You can apply pre-completion or post-completion OPT, with no limits on how long or for how many months. The one condition is that you must work in a job directly related to your major.
If you need assistance selecting an appropriate OPT, speak to your advisor. They can guide your decision based on your career goals, the industries which are hiring, and your current skillsets. They may also recommend an ideal time and place to begin OPT – spring can be particularly advantageous as companies typically close off hiring processes before the summer holiday begins, making job hunting simpler.
OPT can be an excellent way to break into the job market and build your resume while meeting people in your field and forging connections. But remember: OPT alone won’t guarantee you will find work; be proactive and apply to many jobs!
While on OPT, it’s crucial that you carefully manage your employment history and information. Otherwise, USCIS could issue an RFE (Request for Evidence) which could delay the application process; to prevent this from happening, follow all application directions precisely; switching employers during OPT must relate directly to your principal and require at least 20 hours a week of employment.
2. It’s a great way to build your resume
An effective resume is critical in any job application and especially important when applying for OPT. A compelling OPT resume can make you stand out from competitors and increase interviews.
OPT offers you the unique opportunity to apply the skills you learned in college to an actual professional environment and expand your network – an essential step towards furthering your career goals.
OPT allows students to do any work related to their field of study – paid or unpaid! The only requirement is 20 hours a week worked. Students on OPT may work for multiple employers as long as all criteria for employment have been fulfilled; additionally, OPT experience provides invaluable opportunities to build skills like leadership, teamwork, and communication.
When applying for OPT, you must follow all instructions precisely. Failing to do so could delay processing your application or an RFE (Request for Evidence), both of which can be time-consuming and frustrating experiences – so make sure you adhere strictly to every instruction for the best results!
Always remember that OPT is limited to 12 months at each level of education; thus, if you use OPT for your Ph.D. degree, you won’t be eligible to use it again for your Master’s degree. Also, remember that leaving the country during OPT could mean forfeiting any remaining OPT time; to find out how much OPT remains available, visit the IRS website and look up your status there.
3. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door
OPT offers students the chance to gain professional experience in their field of study while making connections in the U.S. that may lead them to permanent employment after graduating. Many companies value international student contributions because of their unique perspectives and knowledge, which bring new insights and understanding to the workplace.
Additionally, OPT work experience can help secure higher-paying jobs since most employers recognize its value.
When choosing a school, it can be helpful to consider city size and industry clusters as factors in selecting one. A larger city and high demand for specific industries will increase your likelihood of finding work after graduating; additionally, choosing majors related to desired postgraduate jobs could prove especially helpful.
Pre-completion OPT and post-completion OPT are both available. Pre-completion OPT is available to students while still in their program, while post-completion OPT can only be requested by graduates who have successfully finished their program.
OPT may be paid or unpaid and full-time or part-time employment; however, all work performed must directly relate to your field of study and be at least 20 hours per week. Students on OPT must keep a logbook detailing all employment activities; additionally, ISSS requires each student to submit an OPT Employer Reporting Form as part of this experience.
Students on OPT are eligible for a Social Security Number (SSN), giving them more earning potential and making it easier to find employment without it being not easy. Keep in mind, however, that any unutilized time will be forfeited after one year has been used up.
4. It’s a great way to meet new people
OPT can be an invaluable way to meet new people and broaden your professional network in your field, not to mention finding future employment or internship opportunities. Working part-time during OPT may allow you to connect with people who could become mentors for you later down the line.
OPT allows international students to apply their knowledge and abilities in real-world settings, building upon them to form stronger resumes and gain professional experience. Participants can work at some giant corporations worldwide while making connections that will benefit them throughout their careers.
Students can take advantage of OPT before or after graduation and may choose from 12-month Pre-OPT, 24-month extension post-completion OPT, or both as options. To qualify for OPT, a student must hold a degree from an accredited institution and maintain good academic standing; additionally, those on OPT must update ISSS each month with employment updates.
OPT offers F-1 students the chance to work in fields related to their major. Coordinated by USCIS, OPT allows F-1 visa holders with F-1 status to work legally in the US. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs often find OPT particularly valuable because it enables students to implement their education and provides an opportunity to network.
5. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door
OPT offers recent graduates just entering the workforce an excellent way to break in and establish themselves quickly and professionally. Furthermore, this experience may lead to permanent positions later.
Successfully applying for OPT requires carefully following all application instructions to increase your chances of approval. Keep in mind, however, that there can be up to a five-month backlog for OPT applications before getting their answer.
OPT is a “use it or lose it” program. Once enrolled in your degree program, only one post-completion OPT segment per completed program of study can be eligible for post-completion OPT time – and any time not used cannot be recaptured at later dates.
Students on OPT may work in any employment that directly relates to their field of study and does not breach labor laws. This could mean any paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time work at either large or small companies; students on OPT must commit at least 20 hours per week in work time.
OPT students may apply for a STEM OPT extension, which extends their post-graduation OPT tally up to 24 months post-graduation. To be eligible for this extension, however, they must possess both an eligible degree and an electronic recommendation from their academic advisor or department chair to be considered. Furthermore, any changes in programs of study or transfers require reapplying for OPT; any classes taken during OPT must either count towards a credit (i.e., required course or nondegree-seeking such as research thesis or dissertation) so as not to count towards OPT extensions.