H1Base Reviews: OPT Visa Jobs 2013 (F1 Visa Work Permit)
By and large, the OPT (Optional Practical Training) and CPT (Curricular Practical Training) are work permits that allow F-1 Visa international students to work in internship or temporary positions before and after graduation. It's important to fully understand the rules surrounding these work permits, though, because students only get a limited practical training allotment of time for these positions; for example, time spent as a full-time CPT or pre-completion OPT worker can prevent you from obtaining a post-completion OPT authorization later down the road.
The CPT is a period of employment that is an established part of a U.S. college's course of studies -- basically, it allows undergraduate and graduate students to participate in an internship prior to completion of their degrees. Two types of CPT exist:
non-required. With a required CPT, it means that the internship is mandated by the academic program in order to graduate. The non-required type of CPT generally gives some form of credit (but, significantly, is not a requisite for graduation) and is relevant to the F1 student's primary field of study. CPT jobs must be part-time (20 hours a week) while the F1 student's classes are in session (they must be enrolled in classes full-time), but CPT workers can be full-time (40 hours a week) while the F1 student is on an academic break. CPT authorization is recommended even for unpaid internship positions, and it may even be required.
The OPT program, by contrast, allows F1 (and some M1) students to apply theoretical academic knowledge into practical work experience. And there are also two types of OPT:
post-completion. For all intents and purposes, the pre-completion OPT is virtually identical to the CPT in terms of how many hours students can work (i.e. part-time during the school year, full-time on academic breaks). Post-completion OPT work authorizations allow F1 visa holders (and, again, some M-1 students) to extend their stay in the U.S. while working in a position that is directly related to their field of study. Significantly, many international students will use the post-completion OPT as a transition to the
2013 H1B visa; however, time spent in a CPT or pre-completion OPT position will count against the post-completion OPT's 12-month limit. This means it can affect how you do an
F1-to-H1B Transfer, assuming you're hoping to use an OPT to extend your stay in the country until the next H1B filing period.
Review of Qualifications for OPT and CPT Visa Jobs in 2013
In order to get either an OPT or CPT work authorization, international students must first fulfill the requirements of an F-1 visa and be enrolled (or recently enrolled, in the case of a post-completion OPT) with a U.S. university. And though you'll remain on F-1 legal immigration status while you have either authorization, these requirements must be met:
You Must Have Been Enrolled in a U.S. School for a Specific Time Period: For the CPT, you have to have been in the U.S. for at least a full academic year, or 9 months in some cases. For a pre-completion OPT authorization, most universities require that you've been enrolled for a full academic year before becoming eligible (some require a longer enrollment, however). With post-completion OPT authorizations, the same enrollment period of a full academic year or more will apply, but you'll also have to complete a degree and found a position within no more than 60 days of graduating (during the departure preparation period).
The Position Has to Be Approved by Your School's DSO and the USCIS: Before starting any work with an off-campus employer, it has to first be approved by the Designated School Official (the person designated to maintain the school's SEVIS databases) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Among other criteria, the job has to be directly related to your course of study.
You Have to Possess Time Eligibility for Practical Training Allotment: For lack of a better term,
time eligibility is something international students need to be keenly aware of when dealing with CPT and OPT work authorizations. Unless you qualify for a STEM OPT extension (see below), then you have a
practical training allotment totaling
one year -- or 12 months -- between all of your CPT / OPT positions. This means that any time you spend working in a CPT or pre-completion OPT authorization
(50% time for part-time positions and 100% for full-time positions) will count toward the practical training allotment for your post-completion OPT period of time eligibility as well. If your degree is in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM), though, you could be in luck -- OPT extensions for STEM students can be up to 17 months.
The TYPE of Employment Has to Qualify: While CPT employment is generally limited to employment with a company that is directly relevant to the student's field of study, a relatively wide range of employment options qualify for OPT authorization (Note that it still must be directly related to the field of study). These include: paid employment, multiple employers, short-term multiple employers (for performing artists), work for hire, self-employed business ownership (must provide proof of business license), employment through an agency (post-completion must show proof they worked more than 20 hours a week), and unpaid employment. Though not particularly common, all of these options exist.
H1 Base Review of Occupations & Jobs for OPT / CPT Authorization
Almost any kind of skilled job can qualify for OPT and CPT authorization, just so long as the position in question is directly related to the student's field of study. According to the USCIS,
around 70,000 students are currently authorized to work under OPT status. From those, approximately 23,000 are studying in STEM fields. Some will be selected for an H-1B, while others may choose to continue their education; still others will depart the U.S. It's estimated that around 12,000 will opt into the STEM extension. The remaining OPT students tend to be working in fields of finance and business. International Students attending school for MBAs often take advantage of this work authorization.
How to Find an OPT / CPT 2013 Visa Job
Your best bet for getting OPT or CPT employment authorization involves finding out exactly
which companies tend to take on international students under OPT / CPT authorization. As a rule of thumb, you'll most likely be wasting your time by searching the larger, more generalized American job boards -- nearly 99% of these sites' job listings are for domestic U.S. workers and students, so it's hard to tell employers are even considering OPT or CPT workers for their their employment needs.
And in many cases, OPT and CPT positions simply can't aren't general job sites anyway; most OPT and CPT-sponsoring employers won't advertise them there. As a result, you'll want to know which employers to target, and use the most effective application method(s) at your disposal. And this goes double for when it comes time to find an
H1B visa! But these are just a couple of areas in which H1Base and our affiliated sites can assist you in this endeavor.
Are you currently trying to find visa sponsorship employment with top companies that grant OPT or CPT work authorization? Check out H1base's partner site, AmericaVisaJobs, and access their cutting-edge
OPT / CPT job search system, which will help to match you with U.S. visa-sponsoring employers. You can also visit their
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