MBA candidates planning to study in the U.S. on an F1 visa would be aware of the Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Under the Optional Practical Training, MBA students on an F1 visa are authorized to work in the U.S. for a period of up to twelve months while studying or on completion of the course.
The employment must be directly related to the student’s major area of study. So, candidates have time to get their H-1B visas and need not start worrying about it immediately upon completion of their MBA.
There’s plenty of information on the Optional Practical Training on the net. The issue is, the technical jargon makes it quite difficult to comprehend the basics. So we thought it might help to take that legal explanation and present it in a simpler manner.
Here’s a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the Optional Practical Training
I have information about an additional seventeen month OPT extension. Does that apply for an MBA graduate?
Only students who receive their bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) courses are eligible for an additional seventeen month OPT extension in addition to the initial 12-month period provided the other necessary criteria are fulfilled.
A job or a job offer from an E-Verify employer is needed. Unfortunately MBA education does not come under the qualifying category and hence an MBA would not be able to apply for this extension.
What is the procedure for applying for an OPT? Does the employer need to be involved?
Applications for the OPT can be made while you are still studying. Students need to approach the concerned School Official and fill in the application form. Once the application is approved, Employment Authorization Document (EAD) would be issued.
This card would display the dates you are allowed to legally work in the United States.
How early can I apply for the Optional Practical Training visa? How long does it take?
Firstly, there’s no ‘OPT visa’. It is an authorisation document (EAD, as described in the earlier question).
You can apply for the OPT even before you land a job. Applications can be made up to 90 days before graduation.
It could take approximately 4 months by the time you get the EAD in your hand. So always good to prepare for it in advance and be aware of the OPT rules and requirements.
Is there any specific time frame to obtain an OPT and find a job?
Your OPT start date should be within 60 days of the day you complete your MBA degree requirements. Again, you need to be employed within 90 days of the OPT start date. In case you fail to procure a job, your OPT would be cancelled.
What is pre-completion and post-completion OPT?
Students enrolled in a full-time program are authorised to work before completion of their course. This period of employment before your degree completion refers to pre-completion OPT.
Students may work up to 20 hours a week while the school is in session and more than 20 hours during vacation period. This period of employment would be deducted from the total OPT period. For example, if you worked for two months full time during your break, this would lead to two months deduction.
Or, if you worked for two months part-time, this would result in one month deduction from your OPT.
What about the Optional Practical Training salary?
OPT salaries would depend completely on the type of job, the company and of course your negotiation skills. There are folks who’ve completed their OPT work for free for the entire duration.
Others get a salary that matches the qualification and skills that the candidate brings onboard.
Are there any formalities to be completed if I change my job?
Any changes in job need to be updated. Even if you are changing residences, as per immigration regulations, your change of address needs to be notified to the concerned college official.
When do I get my status converted to H-1B?
Once you have the EAD, you can straightaway start working. However all employers may not be able to sponsor your H-1B visa. So you need to look out for jobs in H-1B visa sponsoring companies. H-1B is granted for three years and may be extended up to six years.