Visa application is a crucial part a student’s US study mission. F-1 visas are intended for just studies and not work – for which there are strict restrictions. Students with F-1 visas are generally allowed to work on the campus of the university at which they study for up to 20 hours a week.
Deepika Rawat, EducationUSA associate at USIEF, says, “There are also two training programmes that F-1 students can get permission to work under - Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical training (OPT). F1 students should always seek advice from the DSO (or foreign student advisor) before seeking employment in the US. Upon arriving at a US Port of Entry, an immigration officer will issue students an I-94 card that indicates your non-immigrant status (F1) and your authorised stay. It is typically ‘duration of status’ or D/S on a student’s I-94 card, meaning that the student may remain in the US as long as s/he is enrolled in the school to complete their academic programme. After the programme ends, students have 60 days to depart the US. Students who are authorised to work under OPT may begin work immediately after graduating.”
More generous visa policies for international students, including Indians, will boost student mobility, says Kimberly Dixit, co-founder and president, The Red Pen, an overseas education consultancy based in Mumbai. “Over the past year or so, the US government has introduced longer OPT visas for students with STEM degrees. A student visa lets students apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) at the end of their studies. This allows them to stay in the US for up to a year and seek employment that is related to their major or field of study. They then get a chance to apply the knowledge they have acquired,” she says.
In the last one year, there has been stricter scrutiny on the academic and financial profile of the student. “This is primarily to ensure that student visa is not misused as a route to enter the US. The recent news about the STEM OPT extension of 17 to 24 months was very well received by the students and parents in the market to have an opportunity to gain industry exposure and experience right after graduation,” says Mallik Sundharam, regional director for ELS Educational Services for South and South East Asia.
As of May 10, 2016, foreign students in the US became eligible, as per their visa, to remain in the US for three years after graduation, with the proviso that they seek training designed to prove itself conducive to employment.
However, there is a key caveat: these rights are only applicable to students participating in STEM subjects from accredited institutions, and who are being trained or employed by participants in the e-verify programme. This essentially extends, rather than creates, the period by which students are allowed to remain. Previously, students participating in 12 months of this programme could extend their stay by 17 months. It is now possible to increase that extension period to 24 months, allowing graduates another 7 months to receive training and attain employment, says Jack Moran, who is associated with the QS Intelligence Unit.
The US’s current visa policies are liberal, designed to allow talented students the opportunity to fulfil their potential through a course of international study. It also both encourages and allows talented graduates to remain in the US to nurture their employability. The recent changes are progressive measures in that regard. Allowing graduates more time to receive needful training and match with a suitable employer in the world’s top economy can only encourage international student mobility from India, and this is to be supported. The US government has made positive adjustments to its visa policy over the past six months, and will take note of any future changes in this respect, he adds.