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If you want to study in the U.S., you’ll need to apply for an F-1 student visa. You must be accepted into a U.S. program of study, and then prove to the embassy that you intend to return to your country after you finish your program. This can be quite a challenge in some countries, as U.S. law considers you to intend to stay in the U.S. permanently unless you can prove otherwise.
When you have a student visa, you may be allowed to work in Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training for a limited period, and for an additional 17 months if you are a graduate in STEM studies – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – Some are more straightforward than others. Click here for basic information.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, including: “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” CPT is available only prior to the completion of your degree program and you must have a job offer at the time of application. CPT employment may not delay completion of the academic program. If you’re an undergraduate, you must complete one year of full-time studies before you can work in CPT.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides students with up to 12 months of work experience related to their major field of study, but not required by their academic program. You must complete one year of full-time studies before you can start OPT. STEM graduates may be able to extend their OPT for an additional 17 months. To qualify, the student’s current or prospective employer must be registered with the DHS E-Verify employment verification system.
J-1 Exchange Visitor Visas
J-1 visas are granted for educational, cultural and scientific exchanges to increase mutual understanding between countries. In some cases a foreign national with this visa may be required to return to their home country for two years after the exchange program ends; this requirement can be waived in some cases.
There are many different categories of J-1 visitors:
– College and University Students
– Student Interns
– Professors and Research Scholars
– Short-term Scholars
– Foreign Medical Graduates
You can get more information on Student and Exchange Visitor Visas at the Department of State’s website.