Optional Practical Training (OPT)
12 Months: Granted to students on F1 (student) visa status completing undergraduate (BS/BA) or graduate (MS/MBA) degrees
24 Months Extension: Students with degrees from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) fields
Therefore, students completing a degree from the STEM field get an OPT period of total 36 months (Regular 12 months + 24 months extension), permitting them to work in the US without H1B visa.
OPT is a temporary employment authorization that is directly related to a student’s area of study. Students pursuing their education in the US on student (F1) visa are eligible to work in the US under the F1-OPT visa program, which gives them an opportunity to apply the education obtained in an academic degree to a practical work experience.
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech) that challenged the STEM OPT regulations that allow F1 visa holders who have degrees in STEM fields to extend their one-year Optional Practical Training (OPT) period for an additional 24 months.
The dismissal ends this lawsuit, and the current rules governing 12-month OPT and the 24-month extension for students from STEM fields remain in place.
Every year U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accepts H1B petitions starting from 1st April. As such, petitions for the fiscal year 2017 will be accepted from 1st April 2016. The current quota for H1B VISA is 65,000 under the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption – also known as the Masters quota. Thus, the total quota stands at 85,000. In the previous year, USCIS received a total of nearly 233,000 H1B petitions under both the categories put together from 1st April to 7th April and then they stopped accepting new applications. For the first time, USCIS received more than the limit of 20,000 H1B petitions under the Masters quota (the exact number of applications is not declared by USCIS). Computer generated random selection process (lottery) is conducted for Masters quota petitions which selects 20,000 applicants for the Master’s degree cap completion. The H1B petitions filed under Masters quota cap, but not selected in the first round of lottery are then added to the general quota of petitions. The lottery is then conducted for this pool to select 65,000 petitions towards the general quota cap completion. USCIS rejects and returns the remaining H1B petitions.
Advantages of OPT Extension:
Since H1B VISA petitions are accepted only once a year i.e. 1st April, if the petition is rejected, the applicant has to wait for a further period of one year, i.e., till next April to be able to apply again. In case, a student has an OPT period of only one year, his OPT period lapses before the next April. Hence, he doesn’t get a second chance to apply for H1B visa and has no option but to return to his home country. But students under STEM category will now get an OPT period of 36 Months (Regular 12 months + 24 months extension). In other words, such students will get two more chances for applying for H1B visa if their first petition is rejected. For example, if a student applies for H1B visa on 1st April 2016 but does not get selected in the lottery of 2016, he would still be able to apply for H1B visa again on 1st April 2017 and once again on 1st April 2018.
When you are thinking of getting a Master’s or doctoral degree in America, some of the top questions on your mind would be:
• What are the academic requirements in order to be able to apply?
• What are the costs of getting a degree in the US?
• What are the job prospects?
Here’s a quick look at the answers to those questions.
What is the eligibility for applying for a Master’s course in America?
The basic eligibility requirement is 16 years of formal education (12 + 4), the last 4 from an accredited university. So, students who have bachelor’s degrees in engineering (whether they joined engineering courses directly after the 12th Std. or after a diploma course) can directly apply for American Master’s courses. However, students who have completed a three-year degree (e.g. B.Sc.) should ideally complete their Master’s degrees (e.g. M.Sc.) in India and then apply.
Note: External degrees and degrees from open universities that are not accredited may not accepted by American universities.
What is the cost of education in America?
The cost of education in America varies from Rs. 12,00,000 to Rs. 30,00,000 depending on:
• the type of university (private or government-aided)
• its rank
• its geographical location
Apart from tuition fees you also have to bear the costs of:
• living (food + housing)
There are many ways to reduce these financial burdens however. Many students manage to get some kind of financial assistance in the form of:
• research and teaching assistantships
• tuition waivers
• on-campus jobs etc.
What are the job prospects after completing a Master’s degree course in America?
• After completing your course you are allowed to undertake Optional Practical Training (OPT) for 12 months. OPT may be extended for another 17 months if you fall under the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) category
• Ample job opportunities exist in the fields of engineering and computer science (much tech talent in America is Indian and many Indians hold top positions the field – as is evident from the case of Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft).
• Professors’ recommendations carry a lot of weight. To get a job you must get excellent references from professors who taught you during your master’s course.
• When you are working in America, your company may apply for H1-B visa (work permit) on your behalf. After this you can apply for a green card.
So, get ready to get your MS in US!