One of our readers asked, “how many years does f1 visa get stamped……for example if it stamped for 3 yrs …..course completed in 18 months ….then we have chance of working part time .if we don’t get permanent job ….or should we get back home …and file h1b visa ?“. Before we look into the question, let us understand some basics of F1 student working options after graduation like OPT and OPT STEM Extension regulations that were passed in 2008 and later.
What is F1 Visa OPT for 12 Months
After a student on F1 visa graduates from a US University with a degree, they can work on OPT for upto 12 months in the same field as their degree. This is a general provision giving for all students who get a degree from US universities it could be bachelors, masters or doctorate. Check F1 Student Work in US on OPT vs CPT to get full details on this. Essentially, the key aspect is that you can work for upto 12 months after graduation with this option.
Now, what is OPT Extension for 24 months for STEM Degree holders ?
Background : In 2008, to address the demand for tech workers with H1B visa Lottery, USCIS passed an interim rule for 17 OPT Extension and then later amended to give 24 months OPT for certain students whose degrees fall under STEM ( science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) Category. The updated OPT rule for 24 month extension became effective in early 2016 and it is you can read full Summary of the New 24 month STEM OPT Rule
What is the OPT Extension Rule for STEM Degree holders ?
With the interim final OPT extension rules, if a student has a degree that falls in STEM Degree Category, they can get another OPT extension for about 24 months, which makes your overall OPT stay for anywhere up to 36 months. Typically, first term is given 12 months and can be extended up to 24 months. The big clause of is STEM category for 24 month extension. There are CIP Codes ( CIP is an acronym for “Classification of Instructional Programs”) for degrees that fall under this category, it is printed on the I-20. Read What is CIP Code and Importance for STEM Extension .
Also, to avail this OPT extension, the company you work for should be enrolled in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS’) E-Verify employment verification program and the student has to be maintaining proper status in US. There are also rules like the student should update the student’s designated school official (DSO) about student’s work info and their current address every 6 months, there has to be training plan, etc. All these rules have to met in order to maintain the 24 month OPT in proper status.
What is the application process for STEM OPT Extension ?
- The student should file Form I-765 with USCIS along with the Form I-20 endorsed by the DSO.
- A copy of the STEM degree has to be submitted along with the application packet.
- A required fee of about $410 USD has to submitted as well.( check USCIS website for updated fee)
- The student has to indicate the STEM degree and also provide the employer’s E-Verify information in the application form.
- The student has to file for this OPT extension before the expiration of 12 month.
- If the student does not hear back the decision from USCIS on STEM Extension, the student can continue to work for about 180 days, when the application for extension is filed timely when in proper status.
So, Can you work for 5 years, if your F1 visa is Stamped for 5 years doing part time or some sort of work ?
As described above, the answer is that you can work on OPT for 12 months and OPT Extension for another 24 months, if you fall under STEM category. In total, you can only work up to 36 months. You work on F1 status during these 36 months. Your F1 visa stamp on the passport does not matter, it is the status you maintain in America that matters you to stay in America. Even, if you have 5 years F1 visa stamping, it does not let you work in US in any job in US. You will have to work only in OPT by maintaining your F1 visa status. Read Visa Vs Status in USA to understand the difference. You need to apply for H1B visa to continue to work in US after your OPT expires. You need to find an employer who can sponsor you H1B Visa as well. Read How to Apply for H1B visa
What are your thoughts ? What has been your experience ?