The F-1 is a non-immigrant visa sponsored by certified U.S. schools that allows qualified foreign students to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs in the U.S.
Following completion of their first academic year, F-1 students may engage only in three types of off-campus employment:
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT): CPT allows students to accept paid employment while gaining real world experience relevant to their field of study. To qualify as CPT the work performed must be an integral part of the curriculum of the student’s academic program.
- Optional Practical Training (OPT): OPT allow students to accept paid employment while gaining real world experience relevant to their field of study. OPT is not an integral part of the curriculum of the student’s academic program. USCIS may authorize an F-1 academic student to have up to 12 months of OPT following completion of their degree program.
- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension: The STEM OPT Extension allows eligible F-1 academic students with degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics to apply for a one-time 24- month extension of OPT. Students with a STEM OPT Extension may only work for employers enrolled in E-Verify. Students and their prospective employers must also complete and comply with the terms of the Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, which includes not only a detailed training curriculum for the student, but also certain attestations by the employer as well as assessment and reporting requirements.
CAP-GAP: In cases where an F-1 student is seeking to change to H-1B status, they may be eligible for an extension of their work authorization through September 30 of the calendar year in which the H-1B petition is being filed, but only if the H-1B status will begin on October 1.