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F1 Visa given for two years, Can I apply for OPT ? Employment after MS ? F1 Visa expired ?

I was recently asked about a question that is very important for students either planning to come to US or already in US and planning to work. Here is the question. This article gives you full details on the process and states the issues.

I got visa for only 2 years my MS will complete within that time can you
give me any suggestions to extend my visa or changing status like f1
to h1 or opt ?

First very important thing to know is, Visa is a valid legal entry document to enter United States legally. After you enter United States, your status is determined by valid I-94. Typically, if you enter US with F1 visa, your I-94 will state your valid stay with ‘D/S’, which means ‘duration of status’ .  As long as you maintain your legal status in US and have valid I-94, you are always in good shape. You do not have to worry about F1 Visa expiration. It is required to have valid visa to re-enter US. If you are in US and not planning on traveling outside US, you are fine. Instead of D/S, if immigration official at Port of entry writes on your I-94  a specific date or month like let’s say June 2010, then you have a problem.

If you are on valid F1 student status, without going out of status during your stay, with a valid I-20, one of the very best options is to apply for OPT and then apply for H1B visa.

  1. Apply for OPT before graduation
  2. Apply for H1B visa
  3. Apply for OPT extension for 29 months.

Apply for OPT before graduation :

You will have to make sure you apply for OPT before your graduation. You will have to work with your international student advisor or the Designated School Official and get your OPT applied properly. The DSO should recommend you for OPT and will give you a new I20 indicating that your status was recommended for Optional Practical Training ( OPT) from particular date. Your school official with also indicate your OPT start and end dates.  You will be given a new I20 with school official signed saying that you were recommended for OPT. You as a student must apply to USCIS for employment authorization using I-765 form by paying fee and the I-20 employment page given by your school official which indicates that your OPT was recommended.  Your school will have all the information on how to apply for OPT with all the forms and your DSO will help you. Do not worry about the process. You will get a valid Employment Authorization Document ( EAD) or some people call OPT Card with duration of your OPT. You will have to file for extension of OPT before its expiration or apply for H1B visa.  Explore the USICS web pages for I-765 and other F1 work authorization  details and Immigration Custom Enforcement (ICE) website pages for OPT for more information. You should NOT have worked for 12 or more months in CPT to get OPT. If you have worked for 12 or more months in CPT, you will not get OPT. Check OPT vs CPT if you do not know what is CPT.

Apply for H1B visa :

You should apply for H1B visa before your OPT expires. Check this post for All the details about applying for H1B visa with list of documents. Your employer takes care of all the stuff about applying for H1B visa. You have to just supply all the required documents. If you are running out of time, you can apply for Premium processing.

Apply for OPT extension before expiration:

You should apply for OPT extension before the expiration of OPT. Your F1 Visa expiration does not matter for extension of OPT. There are certain restrictions, read this post about new rules for OPT extension for  29 months . You should always work with your school official (DSO) and make sure your status is being updated in SEVIS too.

Important thing : DO NOT travel on OPT- It is risky !

One of the most important thing is to avoid travel outside of USA when you are on OPT. Your OPT is a temporary work authorization and might not be sufficient to prove that you have a full time employment offer. Some people do travel with paper work and may pass through at port of entry, but it is very risky. If you have to leave the country for emergency in OPT, you will have to make sure either you have a valid offer letter from employer for full time job or have H1B application receipt that your employer already applied. The goal is, you might have to prove to immigration officer at port of entry that you have valid full time employment offer in US. It is very risky and recommended by many to avoid travel during OPT. Though few get away, please avoid travel outside US.

These are just my personal thoughts based on information that I know and gathered. Do not take anything for granted. You SHOULD WORK WITH your SCHOOL DSO or advisor for any help. Immigration and status issues are very sensitive and do not risk anything. Work with your School officials!

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  1. I obtained a 4years f1 visa in April 2013 but could not start the school. I now want to go take the course. Can I still use the visa with an updated I-20 to travel to the school?

  2. Hi, I came to US with F1 visa in Fall 2011. Currently I am in my OPT. I would be getting married in the next month. I would like to know, which Visa status should my wife apply to ? And will it in any way harm my OPT status, once I come back to the US within a month of leaving. Also would my wife be eligible to work in US with that visa status ? If no, what measures can one follow, so that she too can work here as well ?

  3. I’m an international student since 2010. F1 is valid for 5 years. If I want to start a degree and it’s not enough time to finish it. What can I do? May I continue studying after 5 years?

  4. Hi! I am in F1 visa, and my visa expires on December, 2012. I am planning to visit to my home country on this summer (May). Can you please tell me that how long can I stay or does the visa has to be 6 months valid to re enter U.S.?
    Thank you,

  5. Hi,
    I am a international graduate student in USA. I have just completed my masters and have a query about OPT process. I believe, if I am applying for OPT after my last final exam it will take 60 – 90 days to process. Would I still get 90 days to search employment from the day my EAD come.

    I really appreciate your help.

    Thanks and Regards,

  6. Hi,
    I am in OPT extension period currently, but I came outside USA from past three months for my marriage. Can you tell me if I can comeback to USA with a new job. If yes how long can a person in OPT extension be allowed to stay outside USA.
    Your reply would be highly helpful and appreciated.


    • How long have you stayed unemployed on OPT? Are you currently employed on OPT? Was your OPT endorsed by your school for travel?

      • Its been three months now. And I was employed in my OPT extension period for 1 year and also got my OPT extension card. I resigned before coming to India and also informed my school about my plans to come back in future. Can I enter USA with a new offer letter.

        • If you have been unemployed for less than 90 days, then you should be fine. You can use existing F-1 visa stamp and OPT card to enter US and work for the new employer (carry the employment letter as well). Your wife will have to go for F-2 visa stamping in order to accompany you.

  7. Hi, im Nishant, this is a very good article, it covers most of the points, i would like to know some additional information, i have only 2 year F1 visa, how can i work with OPT if my F1 visa is expired? If i do so, is it a legal stay in US? and when i later on apply for H1 would it not affect my application for staying in US with expired F1 visa even though i have OPT? Please let me know, waiting for your reply.


    • Hey Nishant,

      I am currently on OPT Extension which is valid until July 2014 and my F-1 expired on July 31 2012. YOU CAN STAY IN USA ON OPT EVEN IF YOUR F-1 IS EXPIRED BUT YOU CAN’T TRAVEL OUT OF USA WHICH IS OBVIOUS. My best bet is to get H1 in 2014. If I don’t get, I have no idea what to do yet. Waiting to hear for some suggestions on my position as well.

      Sri Krishna


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