Post-Study Work Visa in the USA: A Complete Guide



Updated On 15 August 2023


Read Time 11 minutes


Pursuing higher education often sparks a desire to study abroad among students, wherein US is touted as the top-favoured destination across the global landscape owing to its world-class academic excellence and cultural diversity.


Yet, have you ever given thought to what you will do after graduation? This is where the post-study work visa steps in, as primarily, students tend to apply for work opportunities, either along with their course or after that. Today, in this blog, you’ll learn every facet of the post study work visa in USA.


From quality education to diverse experiences, the US offers it all, but what transpires after graduation? That's where the post-study work visa emerges as a vital consideration. So, you will understand the intricacies of obtaining and utilising the post study work visa in USA by giving a careful read to this blog.


What is Post Study Work Visa in USA?

A post-study work visa, commonly known as Optional Practical Training (OPT), is a remarkable initiative tailored for those applying to study in USA. Such programs let you work in a field linked to your field of study for a specific duration.


It's like a golden chance to roll up your sleeves, get real-world experience, and delve into the American job market. This visa isn't just a piece of paper; it's your ticket to stepping into the professional world and gaining hands-on knowledge beyond the classroom.


So, whether you're into engineering, business, or any other field, this is your chance to put your learning into action and discover what the American job market has in store for you.


What are the Types of Optional Practical Training?

There are mainly two main types of Optional Practical Training (OPT) that international students can apply for in the United States: Pre-Completion OPT and Post-Completion OPT.


Pre-Completion OPT allows you to apply for work authorization while still enrolled in your academic program. To be eligible, you must be enrolled full-time in a U.S. educational institution certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) for F-1 students. Moreover, your degree should be a minimum of at least 12 months duration. If approved, you can work part-time, up to 20 hours per week, while classes are in session. Further, you are permitted to work full-time during holidays or breaks.


On the other hand, Post-Completion OPT is available after you have successfully completed your higher studies in USA. This type of OPT is applied for and used once you are graduated.


Therefore, Pre-Completion OPT is for working part-time while still studying, which requires following specific guidelines, and Post-Completion OPT is for working after completing your higher studies in USA. Both types of OPT provide valuable opportunities for you to gain practical work experience in your field of study in USA.


Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for the post study work visa in USA, there are a few essential criteria you need to meet:


  • Attending a SEVP-Approved School: The first step is enrolling in a school recognised and approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). This ensures that the university maintains high educational standards.


  • Completion of a Full-Time Degree: You must finish a degree program full-time which can be a bachelor's, master's, or doctorate. Basically, you need to have successfully completed your chosen course of study in order to qualify.


  • STEM Field Qualification: If you're pursuing a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM), you could be in for a special treat. There's a chance to extend your post study work visa in USA for an additional 24 months, which gives you more time to gain valuable practical experience in your field.


Remember, these requirements are designed to ensure that you've received a quality education and are ready to contribute your skills to the workforce after your studies. They're your ticket to exploring the professional world here after your study in USA.


How to Apply for a Post-Study Work Visa Step by Step?

Now that you know your eligibility and how long you can work after graduation, you need to understand how you can start applying for your post study work visa in the USA. Let’s have a look at the simple breakdown of the application process:


  • Apply for Graduation: Begin pursuing higher studies in USA by preparing and submitting applications to your chosen universities. Ensure you have all required documents, such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose, to demonstrate your academic qualifications and aspirations.

  • Get a Job Offer: Explore employment opportunities related to your field of study in the location where you plan to study. Secure a job offer from an employer to bolster your practical experience and gain insights into your industry while preparing to undertake your higher education.

  • Submit OPT Application: Collaborate with your Designated School Official (DSO) to complete and file your Optional Practical Training (OPT) application with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). OPT offers a chance to gain practical work experience in your field during or after completion of your higher studies in USA.

  • Receive EAD: If your OPT application is approved, you'll obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which legally permits you to work in USA during the specified OPT period. This document validates your eligibility to engage in practical training related to your academic discipline.

  • Start Working: Once you are in possession of your EAD, you are authorised to commence working within the timeframe indicated on the document. Thus, utilise this opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience, contribute to your chosen industry, and potentially enhance your prospects for future career opportunities.


When Should You Apply for OPT?

Pre-Completion OPT for STEM and Non-STEM Degrees:


  • If you're pursuing a STEM degree, you can request pre-completion OPT once your DSO adds the OPT recommendation to your SEVIS record. You can also apply up to 3 months (90 days) before finishing a full academic year.

  • For Non-STEM degrees, the process is similar. You can apply for pre-completion OPT after your DSO adds the recommendation in SEVIS, and you are also allowed to apply up to 3 months (90 days) before completing a full academic year.


Post-Completion OPT for STEM and Non-STEM Degrees:


  • If you're completing a STEM degree after your DSO adds the OPT recommendation in SEVIS, you must apply within 30 days of that entry. You can use it as early as 90 days before completing your degree but no later than 60 days after finishing.

  • Non-STEM degree holders should apply for post-completion OPT once the DSO recommendation is in SEVIS. They must use within 30 days of that entry, and they can apply up to 90 days before their degree completion, with the deadline set at 60 days after completing their higher studies in USA.


STEM OPT Extension:


  • If you're eligible for a STEM OPT extension, apply after your DSO recommends it in your SEVIS record. Apply within 60 days of that recommendation's entry. Apart from this, you can also submit your application up to 90 days before your current OPT employment authorisation expires.


How to Get OPT Permit?

After applying, getting an OPT permit in your hand involves a few steps. The first step is contacting your Designated School Official (DSO) at your university, that will assist you in applying for OPT and the DSO takes care of all your situations.


To start, you fill out a form called OPT I-20 request and give it to the International Services Office at your university, and you can find this form on your university's website.


Your university then sends your request to a system called SEVIS, and if everything goes well, you get a new paper called I-20 which is essential for immigration.


After talking to the DSO, you should know these things about OPT:


  • Your job should be related to what you studied.

  • Apply for OPT before completing all of your degree requirements.

  • Keep following the rules for F-1 students.

  • You can work before or after you finish your degree or in both scenarios.

  • You can stay and work in USA for up to 12 months after your classes.


For OPT after you finish university:


  • Try to work full-time, around 40 hours each week.

  • USCIS must receive applications for post-graduation OPT before completing the degree.

  • Finish all your OPT within 14 months after you finish your degree.


Exploring Opportunities and Beyond

The post-study work visa is like a unique key that opens the door to beginning your career in the USA after you finish studying. This visa lets you use what you learned while studying and make friends and contacts in the industry you want to work in.


It's important to know that while this visa allows you to work in USA, it's also like a starting point for other types of visas, such as the H-1B visa. Many skilled workers use the H-1B visa to stay and work in USA for a longer time.


So, imagine you're in a game. Finishing your studies gets you this post study work visa in USA, which is your tool to start your career journey in the USA.


Just remember, this post-study visa is not only about a job for now – it's like a map that could guide you to even more exciting paths in the future.



Q. When can I apply for Pre-Completion OPT for my STEM degree?

A. After your Designated School Official (DSO) adds the OPT recommendation to your SEVIS record, you can apply for Pre-Completion OPT for your STEM degree. You can also apply up to three months (90 days) before the end of the school year.


Q. Can I apply for Post-Completion OPT for a Non-STEM degree before I finish my studies?

A. Yes, you can apply for Post-Completion OPT if you have a non-STEM degree. The OPT recommendation must be entered into your SEVIS record by your DSO. You must apply within 30 days of the entrance date. You can apply up to 90 days before obtaining your degree but by 60 days after completing your studies.


Q. How early can I apply for a STEM OPT extension?

A. Wait for your DSO to recommend a STEM OPT extension in your SEVIS record before applying. You must submit your application within 60 days following the recommendation's entry. You can also apply up to 90 days before your current OPT employment permission expires.


Q. What's the timing for applying for Post-Completion OPT for a STEM degree?

A. For a STEM degree, you should apply within 30 days of your DSO adding the OPT endorsement to your SEVIS record. You can also apply as soon as 90 days before finishing your degree. Just keep in mind that your application must be submitted within 60 days of receiving your degree.


Q. Can I work full-time during Pre-Completion OPT?

A. Yes, you can work up to 20 hours per week during Pre-Completion OPT while your classes are in session. However, you may work full-time during holidays or breaks. Maintain your F-1 student status by following the criteria established by your Designated School Official (DSO).



In summary, the post study work visa in USA opens up a world of possibilities. It is not just about education – it's about building a foundation for your career, gaining global experience, and broadening your horizons. So, as you embark on your educational journey, keep the post-study work visa in mind as your ticket to a bright and fulfilling future in the USA.


If you need clarification or more profound insight, we encourage you to speak with our expert counsellors at Meridean Overseas Education Consultants (MOEC). If you cannot travel to our offices, we offer online counselling services via our website.


Our dedicated counsellors will provide the best guidance regarding your application to study in USA. Our expert counsellors will also assist in the visa process for your successful study abroad journey. Don't hesitate to contact us at or call us at 1800-1230-00011.

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