All posts tagged student visas

  • I’m studying in the US. Can I stay in America after I finish my degree?

    It’s possible to stay in the US under certain circumstances. We take a closer look at two options – OPT and H-1B

    Most international students studying in the US have been granted entry into the country on an F-1 visa. This visa allows students to attend college, university, conservatory, high school, elementary school, and seminary or language school in the US. If you are studying in the US on an F-1 visa, once the study program is finished, you will have 60 days to depart the country, get a new visa or otherwise validate your stay in the country.

    If you would like to stay in the US after you have completed your program, the first possibility you should consider is the Optional Practice Training (OPT) program.

    Optional Practical Training (OPT)

    Intern. International student. Portrait Of An Office Worker

    OPT is a program that allows international students to work in the US after their graduation, and gain practical experience.  Students with F-1 visas may apply for 12 months of OPT after each level of education complete. For instance, after completing their bachelor education, students can apply for 12 months of OPT, and then for another 12 months after the completion of their master degree. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates have the option to extend their program by 17 months (to total 29 months).

    While you participate in your OPT program, you do not need a new visa. OPT program participants are treated as F-1 status holders.

    H-1B Speciality Occupations

    Another option available to you is to change your visa status to H-1B by applying for an interim OPT phase before H-1B, or to apply for H-1B directly from F-1.

    H-1B Specialty Occupations is a non-immigrant visa that gives graduates temporary employment authorization in high-skilled occupations. H-1B applicants are required to have specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher (or its equivalent). Most H-1B jobs are in industries such as science, engineering, and information technology. Under this visa you are allowed to work in the US for initial period of three years, and you may apply for an extension which, if your application is successful, will entitled you to a further three years in the US.

    Here are some useful tips on how to get started

    Start early

    Intern. International student. Woman's hand writing on a notebook with a pen on a wooden desk.

    Plan ahead and try to secure a job or an internship as soon as possible so you have time to prepare all of the required documents. You can even start looking before your graduation, and by doing this you can be sure that you have explored all available options.

    Choose your start day wisely

    You are allowed to choose your OPT start date. Keep in mind that with OPT status you can stay in the US for 90 days while unemployed, and the 12-month work period begins on the start date you choose on your application.

    Networking

    Building connections is also very important when you are looking for an internship or a job. You never know how the person you met yesterday can help you in finding the perfect job tomorrow. Therefore, go out, attend different events, and make connections that may turn out to be very effective.

    Attend career forums

    Career forums can be quite useful so give them a chance! You will get to meet people representing different companies and sectors, and you can be introduced to other people that can offer you exactly what you have been looking for.

  • 5 ways to maintain a valid F-1 visa status

    Can I leave and return to the US on an F-1 visa?

    Am I entitled to work during the semester?

    How long can I stay in the country after my program is finished?

    All your F-1 visa questions answered!

     

    Dreaming of American college life?

    Getting your hands on an all-important F-1 visa is a big step towards turning that dream into a reality. But getting an F-1 visa is one thing, maintaining it is another.

    As a student, there are a number of important rules and regulations that you must follow in order to maintain your F-1 visa status. If you don’t do so, you will not be allowed to re-enter the US if you leave, and you won’t be eligible for practical training (OPT or CPT) or on-campus employment.

    So, with this in mind, here are our top 5 tips for maintaining a valid F-1 visa status

     

    (1) Arriving in the US

    Once you receive your F-1 status, you’ll without a doubt be eager to hit the ground running with your studies.

    But don’t be too eager!

    One of the requirements of the F-1 visa is that you don’t arrive in the US more than 30 days before the first day of classes.

    You’ll also need to link in with your institution’s international office within 30 days of your arrival. Be sure to provide them with your local address in order to keep your SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) record up-to-date. And if you change your local address at any time while in the US, you will need to notify them of this.

    Once you have completed your program, you will have 60 days to leave the US.

    But what if you want to stay extend your American college dream?! To stay in the US you will need to pursue one of the following options:

    • Re-enrol in a higher program
    • Transfer to another school to receive a new Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status)
    • Apply to change your visa status

     

    (2) Attendance and grades

    All F-1 visa holders are required to be enrolled full time, go to class and maintain passing grades.

    Students who are having difficulty in classes, should notify their international advisor. And if it’s not possible to complete your program by the date stated on your Form I-20, your international advisor can help you request an extension.

    Full-time enrolment can differ depending on your student status. For example, undergraduate programs require students to enrol in at least 12 credit hours each semester during the academic year.

    Meanwhile, each graduate program defines their own unique combination of credit hours and research time to be considered ‘full-time enrolment’. To uphold your F-1 visa status, it’s best to confirm the enrolment requirements with your college.

     

    (3) Working

    It’s common for students to seek full or part-time employment while they study in the US. But be careful, not all types of employment are eligible under the conditions of an F-1 visa.

    For instance, F-1 students who want to work off campus can only do so in roles that are related to their studies (more on this below). Most of the other off campus roles are not authorised under F-1 and you will need permission by a DSO (Designated School Official) in special circumstances to do this work.

    It’s important to note that, if you choose to work without the proper authorization, your visa can be revoked and you may have to leave the US.

    F-1 students are entitled to find employment on campus.

    However, while school is in regular session, a student can’t work for more than 20 hours per week. During extended holidays, breaks and summer sessions, you can work full time (up to 40 hours per week).  If you are confused whether a job is considered on-campus employment, ask the employer before you accept the role.

    Optional Practical Training (OPT)

    F-1 students are permitted to work off-campus in Optional Practical Training (OPT) status both during and after completion of their degree. You can apply for OPT after being enrolled for at least 9 months, but you can’t begin employment until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and you have been enrolled at the college for at least a year.

    To qualify as OPT:

    • The employment must be directly related to your major
    • You must apply for OPT before completion of all work towards a degree
    • OPT is permitted for up to 12 months (full-time) in total
    • You can complete 12 months of OPT for each successive level of degree achieved – for instance 12 months of OPT after receiving your undergraduate degree, and a further 12 months after receiving your graduate degree.

    OPT before completing a degree:

    • You must be enrolled in school full-time
    • You can only work 20 hours per week while school is in session
    • But you may work full-time during summer and other breaks (as long as you will return to school after the break)
    • You may work full-time after completion of all coursework, if a thesis or dissertation is still required and student is making normal progress towards the degree

    OPT after completing a degree:

    • After completion of your degree, OPT work must be full time (40 hours/week)
    • All OPT must be completed within 14 months after completion of your degree
    • Applications for post-completion OPT must be submitted before the completion of your degree

    Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

    Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is another off-campus employment option for F-1 students where practical training is an integral part of their curriculum or academic program. CPT employment is defined as ‘alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school’.

    To be eligible for CPT employment:

    • You must have been enrolled in school full-time for one year on valid F-1 status (except for graduate students where the program requires immediate CPT)
    • The CPT employment must be an integral part of your degree program or requirement for a course for which you receive academic credit
    • You must have received an eligible job offer before you submit your CPT authorization request
    • Your job offer must be in your major or field of study

    Note: All OPT and CPT employment requires prior authorization from your school’s International Student Office. And if you work for 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) you will not be eligible for OPT.

     

    (4) Leaving and re-entering the US

    Thinking of heading home for a holiday during a break in semester?

    As long as your absence from the US is for no less than 5 months, you will have no problem leaving and re-entering the US on an F-1 visa.

    However, you will need to have some important documents in order to ensure your re-entry to the US is successful. These include:

    • a valid Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status) with a current DSO signature (valid for one year) from the school that you attend in the US
    • a valid F-1 student visa stamp
    • a valid passport or travel document

    To maintain your F-1 visa status you will need a passport that is valid for at least six months into the future. Your country’s consulate or embassy can help you extend your passport if needed.

    Note: If you have completed your program you will not be able to re-enter the US as an F-

    1 student unless you have been admitted to a new program of study and have a new Form I-20, or you are returning to an authorized OPT job.

     

    (5) Don’t forget your taxes!

    To maintain a valid F-1 visa, you are required by law to file a tax return if you were in the US during the previous calendar year. Filing a tax return is probably the last thing you’ll want to do when you’re enjoying an exciting time in the US. Fortunately help is on hand!

    Sprintax can prepare your Federal and State tax returns for you. And we guarantee to maximize your tax refund too! Last year 9 out of 10 Sprintax users with a Federal filing requirement were due a tax refund. What’s more, the average Federal refund was over $1,000.

    So what are you waiting for? Get started today!

     

  • Getting a Student Visa for the US

    Untitled design (25)

    If you want to study in the US as an international student, you’ll need a student visa. Your course of study and the school you want to attend will determine if you need to apply for an F-1 or M-1 visa.

    Before you apply

    You must get a place in a SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) approved school before you apply for your visa. You can search the Department of Homeland Security website Study in the States for SEVP approved schools. You’ll need to be accepted by a SEVP school 6-12 months in advance. There’s also a SEVIS fee you must pay separately to visa and school SEVIS administration fees.

    Types of student visas

    Depending on your course of study, you’ll need an F-1 or M-1 visa.

    F-1 Visa:

    • University or college
    • High School
    • Private elementary school
    • Seminary
    • Conservatory
    • Other academic institution (incl. language training)

    M-1 visa:

    • Vocational or recognized non-academic institution (other than language training)

     

    How to apply

    Once you secure a place, you should visit your US embassy or consulate website for specific information. However, generally there are a number of steps:

    1. Complete an online application (Form DS-160)
    2. Upload a photo
    3. Print the application confirmation
    4. Schedule an interview with your local embassy or consulate
    5. Take your application with you to the interview

     

    Fees

    You’ll have to pay a non-refundable application fee. The amount depends on the country where you apply. New students can get an F-1 or M-1 visa up to 120 days before the start of their course, but won’t be allowed to enter the US earlier than 30 days before the start date.

     

    What documents do I need for my interview?

    • Passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond your stay)
    • Form DS-160 confirmation page
    • Application fee receipt
    • Form I-20A-B or Form I-20M-N (your school will send you Form I-20 once they’ve put your details in the SEVIS database)
    • Check the instructions on your embassy website as additional documents may be required

     

    Upon finishing your course

    F-1 visa holders can stay in the US for an extra 60 days after completing the course but M-1 visa holders may only remain an extra 30 days after their course is finished.

    This is called a ‘grace period’ and lets you prepare for your departure from the US.

    Good luck!