While not a visa, practical training allows students or recent graduates the ability to work for 12 months. Those with STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) degrees can receive an additional 17 months of work authorization. Practical training is available to those who are in the United States on a student (F) visa.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) are options for foreign students on an F visa. These practical training opportunities allow students to work temporarily in an area related to their field of study.
CPT allows a student to work while he or she is enrolled in school. The school must approve the employment and will provide the student with a certificate of eligibility. If a student has 12 months or more of full-time CPT, he or she will be ineligible for OPT, but part-time CPT will generally not affect OPT.
OPT allows a student to work after he or she has completed school. The student must apply for work authorization with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and must also receive a certificate of eligibility from his or her school.
A student may apply for 12 months of OPT. Those with a STEM degree (a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) may apply for a 17-month extension. To do so, the student’s employer must use the E-Verify program.