Working in the U.S. While Under an F-1 Student Visa: Curricular and Optional Practical Training

Posted by Ife Ashabo|US Immigration
Dec 13

In general, foreign nationals in the United States on an F-1 student visa are not permitted to work in the U.S.  However, there are a few exceptions to this rule, two of which are Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training.



Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a type of employment authorization that allows an F-1 student to obtain employment in an area that is directly related to his/her studies. Also, the student must receive school credit for such work.


To be eligible for CPT, you must have been enrolled full-time in a U.S. academic institution for at least one full academic year.  Therefore, you may not work pursuant to CPT during your first year of study. An exception exists for graduate students whose programs require immediate participation in an internship, a practicum, or other employment.  CPT is not available for F-1 students in language learning programs.

The CPT program permits you to work for an employer within a field that is an integral part of an established curriculum and directly related to your course of study.  Your employment must be pursuant to an internship, cooperative education program, practicum or any other type of arrangement where your course of study permits you to receive credit through employment.

Terms of Employment

F-1 students can engage in CPT on a part or full-time basis.  CPT students who obtain part-time employment may not work more than 20 hours per week.  As long as you maintain your F-1 status, there is no limitation on the length of time you may participate in part-time Curricular Practical Training.

F-1 students may work full-time pursuant to CPT during University breaks, including summer break and holidays.  You may also engage in full-time employment under CPT during your dissertation or thesis stage of schooling or while taking a class where full-time employment is required for the completion of the course.

Full-time CPT allows you to work more than 20 hours per week, and there is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in the full-time employment. However, if you participate in 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you will not be eligible for Optional Practical Training, which is explained below.  The exception to the bar on Optional Practical Training after completing one year of full-time employment applies to F-1 students enrolled in graduate studies that require immediate participation in Curricular Practical Training.



F-1 students who participate in Optional Practical Training (OPT) may work in the U.S. in a field that is directly related to their course of study for a total of 12 – 29 months, depending on the student’s major.

Students Who Graduate with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (“STEM” Students)

Students who have received a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (“STEM” students) may work in the U.S. under the OPT program for a total of 29 months. Non-STEM students may work in the U.S. under the OPT program for no more than 12 months.

Employment need not be for School Credit

The employment you obtain pursuant to OPT need not be pursuant to an internship, practicum, or anything to that effect.  In fact, the employment may be totally independent of your schooling as long as it is directly related to your course of study.  For example, an F-1 student studying business at a university in the U.S. may work part-time at a consulting firm during the school year, full-time at the firm during the summer, or full-time at the firm after graduating even though the work is not an internship and she is not receiving any credit for her employment at the company.

Duration of Employment

Optional practical training is available both during and after the completion of your academic program. However, the total amount of practical training permitted is 12 months (or 29 months for STEM students). For example, if, prior to graduation, you have worked for 4 months under the OPT program, and you are not a STEM student, you will only be eligible for 8 more months of post-graduation OPT work.

Also, work done under CPT counts towards your OPT period.  Therefore, if you work for a total of 12 months under CPT while in school, and you are not a STEM student, then you will not be able to work under OPT upon graduation.

OPT As a Path to Obtaining an Employment Visa

One of the main benefits of the OPT program is that it can be used as a path towards obtaining an employment visa after graduation.  For example, if an employer in the U.S. hires you to work in a field directly related to your area of study under OPT, the employer may also sponsor you for an H-1B, TN, or any other non-immigrant visa you are eligible for during the course of your employment.

Can I Change Jobs?

You may change employers while working in the U.S. pursuant to OPT as long as the new job is directly related to your field of study.

Can I Work at More Than One Job?

With OPT you may have as many jobs with as many employers as you wish.

Unemployment upon Graduation

F-1 students who wish to obtain employment in the U.S. under OPT, and who have thus obtained their OPT registration, have up to 90 days to find a job.  Thus, upon graduating from a U.S. institution as an F-1 student, you may stay in the U.S. for an additional 90 days to look for work that is directly related to your field of study.  STEM students have 120 days to obtain a job in the U.S. upon graduation.

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U.S. Visa/Status Classifications – what are the various types?

Posted by Mark Dey|US Immigration
Dec 13

The United States offers a broad range of visa classifications, indeed, an alphabet soup, to foreign nationals seeing to enter the U.S. from “A” (diplomats) to “U” (victims of criminal activity).  These are:

A Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials
A-2 Foreign military personnel stationed in the U.S.
B-1 Business Visitor (including amateur & professional athletes competing for prize money only; domestic employees or nanny accompanying foreign employer)
B-2 Tourism, vacation, pleasure visitors, visitors for medical treatment
BCC Border Crossing Card for Mexicans
C Transiting the U.S.
D Crewmembers (air or ship)
E-1 Treaty Trader
E-2 Treaty Investor
E-3 Australian professional specialty
F-1 Student – academic
G1 – G5 Employees of designated international organizations
H-1A Nurses
H-1B Specialty occupation workers
H-1B1 Free Trade Agreement Professionals – Chile and Singapore
H-2A Temporary agricultural workers
H-2B Temporary workers performing other services or labor of a temporary or seasonal nature
H-3 Training
I Media, journalists
J-1 Exchange visitor – professor, scholar, teacher; trainee; intern; physician; au pairs
K-1 / K-3 Fiancé(e) / Spouse of U.S. citizen
L-1 Intra-company transferees
M-1 Vocational students
NATO NATO personnel
O Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in the Sciences, Arts, Education, Business or Athletics
P Performing athletes, artists, entertainers
Q International cultural exchange visitors
R Religious workers
S assist US law enforcement to investigate and prosecute crimes and terrorist activities
T Victims of human trafficking
TN NAFTA professional
U Victims of criminal activity

Each of the above visa classifications has its own unique purposes and requirements which must be met for the granting of the visa and/or admission to the U.S. For more information on this or any other US or Canadian immigration matters, please contact PricewaterhouseCoopers Immigration Law LLP – Immigration Lawyers at 1-800-993-9971 or

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How to Extend Your Stay in the United States

Posted by Ife Ashabo|US Immigration
Dec 13

As a non-immigrant, you are only permitted to stay in the country for a temporary period of time.  The date in which you are required to leave the U.S., your departure date, will be marked on your I-94 Departure-Arrival Record, which you will receive at the border upon entry into the U.S.  This article provides a basic overview on how to legally stay in the U.S. beyond the date indicated on your I-94.

 Am I Eligible to Extend My Stay in the U.S. as a Non-Immigrant?

Whether or not you will be permitted to extend you stay in the U.S. beyond your departure date is at the sole discretion of the USCIS.  Nonetheless, in general, your request to extend your stay will be granted if you meet the following criteria:

  • You were lawfully admitted to the U.S. under a non-immigrant visa category;
  • Your non-immigrant status remains valid, meaning you have not stayed in the U.S. past your departure date;
  • You have not  engaged in criminal activity that would render you ineligible to stay in the U.S.;
  • You have not violated the terms of your status or the conditions of your admission to the U.S.; and
  • Your passport is valid and will remain valid for the duration of your extended stay.

 Non-Immigrants Who Cannot Extend their Stay in the U.S.

You are not permitted to extend your stay in the U.S. if you fall within any of the following non-immigrant categories:

  • K-1 or K-2 Visas – Fiancé(e) or Dependent of a Fiancé(e)
  • D Visa – Crewman
  • C Visa – Alien in Transit
  • S Visa – Witness or Informant beyond a total of three years
  • WT or WB – Visa Waiver Program
  • TWOV – Transit without Visa

How Do I Extend My Stay in the U.S.?

Your employer must file a Form I-129 if you fall within one of the following non-immigrant categories:

  • TN-1 or TN-2 – Canadians and Mexicans under NAFTA
  • E-1 or E-2 – treaty traders and investors
  • H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3 – temporary workers
  • L-1A or L-1B – intracompany transferees
  • O-1 or O-2 – aliens of extraordinary ability
  • P-1, P-2, or P-3 – entertainers and athletes
  • R-1 – religious workers
  • Q-1 – participants in international cultural exchange programs

If you are requesting an extension of stay as a non-immigrant in one of the above categories, your accompanying qualified family members must file a Form I-539.

Note: Each of the above categories have specific requirements and limits. For more information, contact your employer or a competent U.S. licensed attorney.

May I Extend My Stay in the U.S. if My I-94 has Expired?

If your I-94 expires while you are residing in the United States, you are “out of status.”  Once you are out of status, you are in the U.S. as an unauthorized individual and, in general, should return to your home country as soon as possible.

There are certain instances where an out of status foreign national will be permitted to extend his or her stay in the U.S., however.  For example, if you have remained in the U.S. past the date of departure on your I-94, USCIS may authorize you to extend your stay in the U.S. if you can prove:

  • The delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control;
  • The length of the delay was reasonable;
  • You have not done anything else to violate your non-immigrant status;
  • You are not trying to obtain permanent residence status; and
  • You are not in removal (deportation) proceedings.

To learn more about extending your stay in the U.S., feel free to contact our office at or 1-800-993-9971.

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Growth into the USA: It’s More Complex Than You Think

Posted by Mark Dey|US Immigration
Dec 13

 Despite the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), entering the US market can present significant challenges for a Canadian business looking to expand into the US market. From immigration, legal and tax differences, to the sheer size and scale of the US market, there are many areas where a strategic error can make the difference between success and failure.

Join us for a free Webinar: December 5th, 1pm (EST)
If expansion into the US market is part of your strategy take this opportunity to learn how to get started from the experts at High Street Partners (HSP). In addition, Export Development Canada (EDC) will provide details on their suite of financial and risk mitigation tools available for Canadian companies expanding beyond Canada’s borders. Also, PricewaterhouseCoopers Immigration Law LLP – Immigration Lawyers will walk us through the visa and immigration process for getting your first employees on the ground in the USA.

In this live broadcast you will learn:

  • Corporate entity structure models
  • Tax considerations, both federal and state
  • Visa’s and Immigration 101 – How to get your first employees on the ground
  • HR requirements and differences, federal and state
  • Common challenges with multinational payroll
  • Ways to protect your company financially when exporting from Canada
  • Overview of resources available to you through the Canadian Trade Commissioner’s service

Don’t let the similarities between the Canadian and US business landscape mask the differences you need to know. Register today for “Growth into the USA – it’s more complex than you think” today!

Sign on at:

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Can Managers Apply for a TN Work Permit?

Posted by Viktor Loubentsov|US Immigration
Dec 13

Recently, I wrote a post on the issue of three-year Indian degrees that may or may not be accepted for TN status requiring a Bachelor degree. (See: I am a Canadian Citizen and I have an Indian three-year Bachelor degree, do I qualify for TN?) One of the comments to my post raises a common question whether a worker who has been offered a managerial position in the US may apply and obtain a TN work permit, giving that the Appendix 1603.D.1 of NAFTA does not list managers as a designated profession for TN status.

Often a job title is a good indication of the profession which the worker occupies but many times it is not. For example, an Engineer, who collaborates on technical product design with company’s customers and R&D departments, might have a designation of an Account Manager. Moreover, she may have a team of junior engineers and technicians whom she is supervising. However, if she largely relies on her engineering education and the principles of engineering, math, and science in order to perform her day-to-day activities, her profession is an Engineer for the purpose of NAFTA.

Therefore, one should pay closer attention to the job description, not job titles, in order to identify an appropriate profession in the NAFTA list.

For more information on this any other Canadian or US immigration matters, please contact PricewaterhouseCoopers Immigration Law LLP – Immigration Lawyers at 1-800-993-9971 or

Posted by Viktor Loubentsov » No Comments »

The O-1 Visa: Entering the United States as an Acclaimed Individual of Extraordinary Ability

Posted by Ife Ashabo|US Immigration
Dec 13

The O-1 visa is a non-immigrant temporary work visa available to foreign nationals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The foreign national’s ability must have received sustained national or international acclaim for his or her achievements.

To obtain an O-1 visa to work in the sciences, education, business or athletics, you must demonstrate that you possess a high level of expertise within your profession and are part of a small percentage of individuals who have risen to the top of their field.

Extraordinary Ability in Science, Education, Business or Athletics

There are two ways you can demonstrate the level of expertise required to be eligible for an O-1 visa:

1.  If you have received a major internationally recognized award for your expertise in a certain area, such as a Nobel Prize, you most certainly have the level of expertise in your field to qualify you for an O-1 visa.

2. The more common way to demonstrate that you are among the top in your field is by providing documentation in three of the following eight categories:

  • Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in your field
  • Membership in associations within your field that require their members to have outstanding achievements within their area of expertise
  • Published materials of your professional accomplishments
  • Participation as a judge of the work of others in your field or allied fields
  • Evidence of original contributions of significance to your field
  • Authorship of scholarly articles
  • Evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations with a distinguished reputation
  • Evidence that you have or will command a high salary
  • Documentation Evidencing your Widely Known Status within Your Field
  • Comparable evidence that does not fit within the above categories may also be submitted.

Extraordinary Ability in the Arts

  • Extraordinary ability in the arts means that the foreign national has attained distinction. Distinction is defined as a high level of achievement in the field of arts evidence by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered. Distinction has also been defined as prominence in the field of endeavor. The applicant can demonstrate distinction by being the nominee or recipient of an important national or international prize, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy, or by submitting documentation in at least three of the following eight categories:
  • Evidence that the foreign national has performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements.
  • Evidence that the foreign national has achieved national or international recognition for achievements evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the individual in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications.
  • Evidence that the foreign national has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.
  • Evidence that the foreign national has a record or major commercial or critically acclaimed successes as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion pictures or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications.
  • Evidence that the foreign national has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the filed in which the foreign national is engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form that clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the foreign national’s achievements.
  • Evidence that the foreign national has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidence by contracts or other reliable evidence.
  • Comparable evidence may also be submitted.

Extraordinary Achievement in Television or Motion Pictures

The same criteria that is used to determine extraordinary achievement in the arts is also used to determine extraordinary achievement for those in the Television/Motion Picture industry. However, the evidence is weighed differently and the applicant does not have to meet as high a standard.

To learn more about the O-1 visa, feel free to contact our office at or 1-800-993-9971.

Posted by Ife Ashabo » No Comments »