Work Authorization for International Graduates


F-1 OPT & STEM OPT for International Graduates

International students can generally apply for one (1) year of graduate work authorization for each level of U.S. education (i.e. Bachelor’s and Graduate), referred to as Optional Practical Training (OPT). It’s important that students get an appropriately endorsed I-20 referencing their prospective employer and coordinate with the Designated School Office in the International Student Office of their University to file an I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with USCIS in order to be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before beginning work.

International graduates of certain Science Technology Engineering or Math (STEM) programs in the United States can apply for a two (2) year STEM OPT extension of the one-year period of OPT for STEM employment with employers enrolled in E-Verify. A list of qualifying STEM degree fields can be found here, and a list of employers enrolled in E-Verify may be found here. The application process is similar to the initial OPT, except timely filed applications before EAD expiration benefit from an automatic 180-day extension of work authorization while pending.

Whether graduate work authorization is limited to 1 year or 3 years, international graduates and their employers should review mid-term and long-term U.S. immigration options as early as possible.

More information may be found on our F-1 Students webpage.

The above is informational and not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with an experienced business immigration attorney on your specific facts and circumstances before proceeding with any U.S. immigration strategy.