I want to work in the US after I graduate…What should I know about OPT?
International students in the U.S. in valid F-1 immigration status are permitted to work off-campus in Optional Practical Training (OPT) status both during and after completion of their degree. Rules established by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) govern the implementation of OPT, and all OPT employment requires prior authorization from USCIS and from your school’s International Student Office.
You can apply for OPT after being enrolled for at least 9 months, but you cannot begin employment until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and you have been enrolled for at least a year. You do not need to have a job offer to apply for your OPT EAD, and your OPT employment can occur anywhere in the US.
How should I search for OPT opportunities?
Career and Professional Development provides LMU students with a dedicated job search database called Handshake. It is recommended that international students look for OPT opportunities within Handshake. While some employers assume they cannot afford the expense of hiring a student on OPT or sponsoring a worker on an H1B visa, it is important to consult Career and Professional Development and the Office of International Students and Scholars to help inform about their options. So, a critical part of any OPT job search is targeting employers who have the will and the resources to hire OPT and H1B employees.
Tips and Hints
- Start your search as EARLY as possible.
- Persist, persist, persist! The reality is that it is going to take a lot more time and effort to find and secure opportunities with your F-1 status than it will for U.S. Citizens. Bridge the gap with effort, enthusiasm, and an open mind.
- Take advantage of Career and Professional Development Peer Advisors who are fellow international students.
- Take advantage of campus and other professional organizations' networking opportunities.
- Again, concentrate your efforts to search for opportunity in the larger metropolitan markets on the West and East coasts. Often corporations in the major coastal cities have a greater willingness to consider and sponsor international applicants for long-term employment status.
- Do not forget that your native language and culture can provide you a unique skill set in the U.S. job market that may be valuable to potential employers. Your cultural background is an asset – think about employers who may need or value your background. Identify U.S. firms with strong ties to your home country or firms based in your home country with operations in the U.S.
Networking is an incredibly important part of the job and internship search process. Particularly for permanent positions, networking is the most common method for finding jobs in the U.S., and it is even more important for international students who generally have a harder time securing employment. Developing a personal connection with a potential employer increases the likelihood they will be willing to hire you and sponsor you for a more permanent work status. Networking can happen in almost any setting and with contacts you identify through friends, family, LMU alumni, faculty, neighbors, a person you meet on a plane, or any number of ways.
If it is not your native language, the more comfortable you are with the nuances of the English language, the more confident you will be during the networking, job search, and interview process. While you may indeed be an advanced speaker of English by graduation, practicing in a professional networking or interview setting is important since language is often situational. Practice “small talk” regularly with a native speaker and also seek out opportunities to develop your professional English. Remember, use of slang, colloquialisms, and even humor can be tricky in your non-native language so be careful about using these linguistic methods in a networking or interview setting when the stakes are higher.
Be sure to research and access all CPD and campus resources related to networking but perhaps most important is that you attend as many events as possible through CPD. These can give you an excellent opportunity to practice your networking skills in a low-stakes environment. It is important to utilize networking resources available to you.
- CPD Networking Events (Career Expo, Info Sessions, etc.)
- Alumni Directory Login
- LMU LinkedIn Alumni Directory
- LMU International Alumni Facebook Group
What is the application and authorization process for OPT?
While a Designated School Official (DSO) or OISS recommends OPT in SEVIS, it is the student who must apply for the work permit with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If the OPT is approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The student must not begin working before the start date on the EAD.
Please contact OISS at 310.338.2937 or firstname.lastname@example.org. OISS is located in Malone Student Center, Suite 201. The office is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m, and until 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.