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Optional Practical Training OPT on F1 Visa in USA

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 24 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. Although, in more recent years a lot of reputed MBA programs are converting to STEM designated MBA programs to avail of this extension opportunity for OPT. That is of course just one of the benefits, the others being able to meet changing workforce demands with adequate knowledge in data and business analytics, making this STEM designation also possible. Read MSTeM concentration at Duke Fuqua offers STEM OPT benefits for international MBA students

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.
Read these related articles:
CPT vs OPT: Differences for international students in USA
Kellogg MBA: International student experience, H1B, OPT and life after MBA
Best MBA programs in USA for Indian students

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

26 thoughts on “Optional Practical Training OPT on F1 Visa in USA”

  1. Hi,

    I got an admit from Georgetown university for a Full time MBA, no scholarship and University of Toronto, no scholarship. I was hoping you could help me decide between them.

    Georgetown is a better university with better job prospects. But I have done a lot of research on H1B visas and foudn conflicting answers. Some people have told me after passing out from a top 30 university H1B Visa should not be an issue. But others have told me its a lottery so unbiased, hence not dependent on the college.

    Secondly I am an Engineer working in an IT company but want to major in Finance. I have first 2 levels of CFA Exams. My research suggests that the financial services sector specially Capital Markets in Canada is very small and they tend to hire people with only previous work experience in this sector. If you could shed some light on these aspects it would help me in arriving at a decision.

    Lastly, for how long can I stay in Canada searching for a job after graduation.

  2. Sidhant: Top 30 or otherwise, getting a work permit in USA is tough.

    Canada has a slightly easier work permit route than USA. In fact, check out this interview with the Rotman MBA (Univ of Toronto) Adcom. With a post MBA degree from Rotman, you can get a 3-year work permit.

    If the visa uncertainty is scaring you, pick Canada. If you want more opportunities and are willing to take on the H1B battle, choose USA.

  3. Hi,
    I have an admit fron State University of New York, Buffalo for MS Finance. I am BE Computers and have 1.5 yrs work-ex so far with a Financial software developing company. Will it be possible to get an H1B visa with MS Finance degree?

  4. Pratik: H1B is a work visa. Whether you have an MS degree or not isn’t the primary criteria. Most of the Indian software engineers workng in the US on H1B visas don’t have an MS or MBA degree.

    Read up a little more on the technicalities of how it works.

  5. Hi,

    I have completed my MS from US in Dec 2008 and then,I got my EAD approved from Dec 2008 to Dec 2009.Unfortunately,I had to come back to India in the month of May 2009(used 5 months of my OPT) and since then,I have been working here in India.Now,I’m planning to do MBA in US and in that case,will I be eligible to use the remaining months of my OPT(7 months),after I finish off my MBA?? Next..Lets say,I have joined for a MBA program in US and I’m about to complete my course.In this case,Is it possible for me to apply for H1-b using my previous MS degree so that,by the time I complete my MBA,I can convert my visa from F1 to H1-b and then,start working after??

    Kindly help me with the above two questions and thanks in advance.


  6. Hi,

    I have 2 questions regarding msc finance job opportunities

    1.) do every bschool in us give you an OPT facility for 1 year irrespective of their course duration? Coz I see many good msc finance programs are only 9-10 months in duration

    2.) I have been advised by a consultant that finding a job in the US is easier if you study at a university located at a financial centre and thus have good corporate connections. My q is if its ok to go for not so reputed bschools located in financial centres (and having good placement opportunities) instead of good schools (top 40) located in far off places to maximize your chances of securing a finance job post graduation?


  7. Sudheendra,

    You’d have to check the specific program websites to know whether they allow an OPT or not.

    Being close to recruiting companies can surely help. But there are many programs that aren’t close to the company headquarters but still have strong ties with them (thanks to the careers team and placement records).

    In those cases, it’s fine to attend a program though it’s not in the same city as your dream company.

  8. Hello,
    I wanted to ask u question that if i have done my MBA in INDIA can i apply for jobs in STATES ? Without having degree of USA ?

  9. Sir,
    I am thinking to pursue my mba in usa . After completion of my master in bussiness administration , if things didnt turnup well can I try for software jobs and apply H1b or else I should be only try my h1b with management company as a tie up.
    dows mba support opt of 12 months

  10. I respectfully disagree with the statement, which is the core of this blog: “Unfortunately MBA education does not come under the qualifying category and hence an MBA would not be able to apply for this extension.”

    Normally MBA programs in US do not fall under STEM category, and so the 12+17 rule is not applicable to them. But, I am aware about at least 5 MBA programs that offers an OPT of 29 months!

    • Raju could you list out the 5 MBA Programs that offer OPT of 29 months.I’m looking at doing an MBA but am confused between choosing an MBA and an MIS which offers 29 months OPT.

    • Raju: Thanks for pitching in.

      I assume you are referring to some MBA courses that allow students to take STEM specialisations (like data analytics) that then make them eligible for the 29 month extension. Is that correct?

      Like you pointed out, these are exceptions that are somehow managing to circumvent the ‘regular’ rules for MBA programs.

      It’s generally not a good idea for international students to depend on such options, as you never know when the screws may be tightened by the policy makers to avoid giving some programs an undue advantage when others don’t have it.

      If I’m missing something here, I’d love to have your inputs.

  11. i am planning for MBA in USA my university choices are Webster ,Virginia international,southern new Hampshire university,NPU, my question is if i had for i20 for MBA later i convert in MS in Information technology i shall be considered in STEM for 17 months opt extension ? i am a bcom student and i had 1 year experience in computers hardware & software instillation filed i plan for ms but i heard that being a bcom student going for ms i will have VISA problem is this true ?

  12. I have one question about OTP. If my college is not providing OTP. Then from when can i get my OTP. ? and in OTP period shall can i work with the store or i hve to look for the different job.? My friend has a store in US can he sponsor me for H1B visa ?

  13. I have two questions here :

    1. If I decide to take up an MS in International Business in second year of my MBA, will I be covered under STEM ?

    2. I got a Graduate Assistantship. If I pursue it for 2 years in college, does it mean I exhausted one year of my OTP ?

  14. Hi,

    I completed my Masters(STEM) and working in the USA on an OPT period.I plan to do MBA after few years and my employer has applied for my H-1 B.I wanted to know it I don’t use my STEM extension now can I use it after my MBA program.
    What if my first masters is STEM.Do I get the extra 24 months after my MBA.


  15. Candidates looking forward to US for their masters program should do some core research using credible and authentic websites. These are just the facts while reality held is different. It is tough for MBA students to get direct fulltime sponsorship H1B visa on their OPT of 1 year. The sole purpose of giving just one year of OPT to management background candidates is for them to not be able to qualify for H1Bcap, unlike STEM students.

    I would suggest to do a little bit more research by getting in touch with students seeking H1B sponsors who actually graduated from an American University with their MBAs.

  16. Hi I am doing my MBA in healthcare concentration. I am also giving RN exam because my bachelor is in Nursing. so at the time of OPT, can I work as a Nurse instead of any Business position?


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