What Is F-1 OPT and Why Is It Useful for Employers?

Employers may benefit from provisions that allow F-1 students to engage in a period of optional practical training (OPT).

Generally, an F-1 student is eligible for a total period of 12 months of OPT for each educational level. However, in some instances, F-1 students are eligible for more than 12 months of OPT.

The OPT must be completed within 14-months from the time the student completes his or her academic program, and the OPT must be in a field that is directly related to the student’s major area of study and appropriate for the student’s educational level. The period of practical training is meant primarily to benefit the F-1 student.

However, the training may also be useful to employers. Employers may get a look at the student in action, to see if the student’s skills, the student’s personality, or something else makes the student a good long-term fit for the employer. If the student would be a good fit, the employer might take steps to employ the student inside the US, post OPT, or to employ the student outside of the US.

Inside the US, the employer could perhaps employ the F-1 student, post OPT, through a temporary work visa, such as the H-1B visa. It is not uncommon for an F-1 student who receives a period of practical training from an employer to go on to become the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that the employer files. With that being said, the provides that OPT may not be used by a US employer to train a foreign national for a permanent position in the US.

With regard to following the appropriate procedures, the F-1 student must first request a recommendation from the school’s DSO (designated school official), and the student must apply for employment authorization from USCIS based on the DSO’s recommendation.