F1 visa students may be allowed to work for 6 years in the USA, like H-1B visa holders

Bold new rules proposed by the DHS.

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By Sujeet Rajan

Sujeet RajanNEW YORK: Even as it’s got stymied in efforts to give legal status to millions of illegal aliens, the Barack Obama administration seems to be in overdrive to give additional benefits and work permits to legal residents. And at the same time to adhere to the tech industry demands to open up avenues for more skilled workers from overseas to compete for jobs here.

Close on the heels of granting work permits to certain H-4 visa holders who meet eligibility requirements, come news of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) moving forward with proposals to expand the work authorization period for international students on F1 visas once they graduate, known technically as OPT (Optional Practical Training), and make it the same as for H-1B visa workers: a total of six years.

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At present, the OPT for international students who finish either an undergraduate or graduate program from an DHS certified educational institution in the US is either 12 months – for non-STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) related programs – or 29 months, for STEM related programs.

During this period of time, students are allowed to take up any work in their field of study and be paid for it, or not be as a trainee, as the case may. It’s also a crucial time for students who intend to stay on in the US to stake their roots, prove to be an asset at work. Their best bet is to have their company sponsor them with an H-1B visa during the OPT time-frame. If that fails, or even after the company sponsors them for an H-1B visa, but they don’t make the cut in the lottery system due to soaring H-1B visa demand, their next best alternative is to study further, stay on as a legal resident. Ultimately, to try their luck anew at another shot at a work visa.

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Many students, however, are forced to go back to their country of origin; cannot afford further studies at exorbitant tuition rates. Some do end up studying further, in hopes their fortunes will change in the next round of application for a work visa. But there is no guarantee plans will work out.

The DHS, it seems, now want to make it a level playing field for F1 students, and give benefits startlingly equivalent to H-1B visa holders.

According to new regulations proposed by the DHS and submitted before the Senate Judiciary Committee, students with STEM degrees can stay on in the US and work for a total of six years under OPT – three years after finishing an undergraduate program, and then if need be, another three years after a graduate program.

Also, for students graduating with non-STEM U.S. degree programs, but who have an earlier STEM degree under the belt, the work period will be good for three years. For example, a student who did an undergraduate program in IT or Physics, and then goes for an MBA, the student would be entitled for three years of OPT, based on his or her undergraduate STEM-related program. For non-STEM related programs, the time-frame for OPT would still remain 12 months.

On the face of it, the proposed new rules bodes well for international students who strive hard to make it to the US. It gives them a better chance and more time to find a job and get permanent residency.

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However, there is also little doubt that many of these students may get exploited by employers, be used as cheap labor, without getting benefits too.

Since the student would be under OPT status, the employers would have a different set of rules for them, perhaps treat these students as a trainee or part-time employee for years, not be obliged to provide health insurance, 401K or other benefits.

It’s also unfair that the Obama administration and Congress have not been able to increase work visas – they are still at 85,000, but let hundreds of thousands of graduates annually the liberty to stay on in the country, and pick up any work they receive, for period of three years. It’s bound to undercut American jobs and wages sooner than later.

Which corporate company would not like to hire a student with a master’s degree in Information Technology, or an MBA, for three years as a trainee? Why pay an American worker just starting out a salary of $75,000 when you can get an employee with the same or more skills for maybe $12,000 a year as a trainee?

It’s absurd, but the very companies who may sponsor a student for an H-1B visa and promise full wages as per law, may still continue to employ that student as an unpaid trainee if the H-1B application fails. That frankly, is ridiculous, and should not be allowed.

The government should put laws in place to see that students who are hired during their OPT period are not exploited, or at least see to it that the trainee period for any kind of jobs for international students do not exceed six months to a year, at the most.

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Also, the demand for H-1B visas will soar exponentially, to the extent that it may well go up by 100% next year if the new rules for F1 students go into effect this year, and perhaps only 1 out of every 10 candidates may get a H-1B work visa, leaving many talented workers to lose out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The DHS proposals for F1 students, if they come through, will undoubtedly also see many more students, especially from India and China, flock to the US.

It must be clarified that OPT is applied for a foreign student on an F1 visa once he or she graduates from a program from an accredited educational institution.

There is another work option for F1 visa students while still enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program: termed Curricular Practical Training (CPT). This CPT option can be used for credit(s) that can be applied to a program per semester, but has to be relevant to the program and directly relate to it; it has to be approved by the department of study too. CPT has to contribute to knowledge and experience of the student in his or her field of study.

F1 visa students can be paid legitimately too while under the CPT, although work hours are limited to 20 hours per week.

(This story was updated on June 14, 2015).

(Sujeet Rajan is the Editor-in-Chief of The American Bazaar)


  • simranjit singh

    I have completed my mba(marketing) degree in2013. i am unemploed can i get f1 visa .

  • Loveish Jangra

    I completed 12th class with 64% in commerce and now i study b.com 1st year but i need to go to foreign country because its my AIM . So please help me

    • Loveish Jangra

      I can famous the name of USA in front of Indian peoples by my hardwork and dedication . Please suggest me .

  • itguy

    Started in IT at 8K 20+ years later not at 170K +. Pre 2000 was solicited 2/3 times a week by other companies, so were all IT workers. Could always get a IT job in a few weeks. No more! I know the Hp1 and L1 visa should only be here 6 year but I never see them leave, either get marries or I think get a lawyer, I think they have methods to get a green card. I always used to hire smart high or 2 yr college to do lower programing, maintain or tests. A good way to promote smart kids to programing and save cost. NO more. These jobs are gone and makes the company exes, stockholders richer and the middle class poor. Another issue, I think it was Bank of America(no sure which bank.It was a big NYC bank) that said L1/hb1 visas earn 80 billion/yr, they stated 30 billion of that goes to the home country- if it went to American workers that would be 30 billion spent in America. Look this one up the L1 and spouse L2 visas are NOT managed by the department of labor like all the other work visas. They are managed by
    immigration. And the number issued year is unlimited and states you do not have to pay equivalent to a US worked. Google it L1 visas not HiB, I was shocked. And China is suing us to get more visas starting India is given too many L1s vs the number assigned to China. And the are putting a few Chinese Army programers in Banks and other sensitive corps. You and add a few Russians to that. We are going the way of machine tool workers, per Tim Cook “I’d like to manufacture more phones in the US but I can’t find machine tool workers in the US”. In ten years the same for compute workers.

  • RALLY Lincoln

    I am high school graduate. since the ebola virus came to my country liberia my parents died from the virus no sponsorship for me to enter university. please help me with a student visa so Ican.
    come to the Usa. I need your help.

  • Rajdeep kaur

    I want to apply usa for work.plse help me

  • C. Hathcock

    I would like to say that under CPT, an F1 student is allowed to work full-time (40 hours per week) off campus, assuming it’s related to his/her field of study and gets approved.

  • neelmeghashyam

    If there is really a shortage of skilled workers that they are getting people from India on H1b then why do the students need to be on F1 for 6 years. Why does it take a student 6 years after graduating to find work that they need to be on F1 on F1 visa. This is all such a JOKE…. IT IS CHEAP LABOUR…. The F1 visa holders will NOT gain neither will AMERIAN WORKERS….MOst F1 are Master’s students. So they are even more highly skilled than H1bs who are Bachelors level and other than Engineering every other Bachelor’s degree in India is 3 YEARS NOT 4 years…..
    Even F1 students are finding it difficult to get jobs. I know this first hand because the companies are OUTSOURCING (remember this is different from OFFSHORING) their services to body shoppers and the body shoppers are getting VERY CHEAP LABOUR on H1B visas….. There is NO PLACE in AMERICA for HIGH SKILLED WORKERS…. with F1 being HIGH SKILLED they are having difficulty too… extending F1 to 6 years is not going to help…. it will only result in students getting desperate and working for peanuts….

    H1B HAS TO BE REFORMED TO CLOSE LOOPHOLES

    • Ralph Miano

      This is exactly what greedy IT corporate Ametica wants to see happen as has happen with the H1b visa program. It’s all about not paying STEM workers commensurate with their training and experience! And the Americam STEM worker get f—–!

  • Russel Gurban

    Instead of paying 100K tuition fees+living costs to study in USA, and then become jobless or work like slave if you are lucky, I would rather buy a small business for 100K (to get a E2 visa) and live like a king, or I would go to Germany (which has a 100 times better life standards than USA). Don’t be stupid guys. Don’t let so called fake “American Dream” to reap off everything from you.

  • Eric Wright

    Hate to say it guys but the H1, F1 or whatever they call them visas will be going away soon. I hold a BS Degree in IT/Business Mgt, hold various certs and have been consulting for 15 years for all businesses, large and small. I’ve seen first hand entire IT departments that are 90% Indians and the same numbers on the consulting side and different shops. I have personally been forced train my H1B replacements at 3 different positions over the last 10 years. American STEM workers are unemployed competing for American jobs with workers from all over the world underbidding the pay. Americans are angry about all kinds of immigration but mostly the H1Bs, F1s for displacing Americas, just google it (Disney, Southern California Edison and the list goes on, be sure to read all the comments). Count the days guys, it’s all about to end and get used to the name President Trump.

    • C. Hathcock

      Hate to say this Eric, but let’s not forget that our forefathers came here as immigrants once upon a time (and so did Donald Trump’s grandparents). You should google stuff up before you post comments. Google “Frederick Trump”, or “Indian-American wars” and you will realize this is a land of immigrants.

      • itguy

        Hathcock – been in it for 20 years used to be 2-4% of the work force HB1 visas. Now most are 80 to 100% using the unlimited L1. My brother at GE was told not to hire Americans 5-7 years ago, my friend from reader digest now a vp at morgan stanley was told 10 years age not to hire Americans. Swis-Re in armonk NY have purchased houses for the L1 visas. My french family can here to avoid death, dad was killed in the rev. had to work for someone here for 7 years to stay. We and Trump are pro immigrants as the pop is declining but legal and not to flood the labor market. These guys till 11pm and will not take “family leave”. Hillary’s leave is another reason t avoid Americans. She doesn’t have a clue. PS I have caught 2 Chinese L1 planting code sending data to China, they left the country before the FBI could set to them. I can give u much more info, vists and company are just look u would be shocked.

      • itguy

        editing my comment:1) My french family can here to avoid death, dad was killed – should be “My great grand father 1777 was killed”.
        2) pro immigrants as the pop is declining but legal and not to flood the labor market. — “pro immigrants as the pop is declining but we need legal immigrants but not so many as to flood the labor market.
        3)These guys till 11pm and will not take “family leave”. — “These guys work till 11pm 12 at night (as I did when I was young) they will not take “family leave”. another reason to avoid American workers.
        4) FBI could set to them — FBI could get to them.
        Extra info- I found a case in Arizona where some plants were caught and arrested. Our data is going to China and Russia by SOME Chinese and foreign works planted here. They are usually the overqualifing programers. It looks like the L1/L2 are coming in about 200,000 a quarter.

  • RANGER BATTALION

    whether you scrap F1.. people like me with invest in Eb5.. You should google that.. its investing half of million and putting america to work… F1 is good and everyone should be given a chance… its not easy to get H1b as it takes doney years to get US green card so i have taken the other way from back home to invest close to 1 million and help american people ..in return i get my green card fast.. help 10 poeple and move forward.. new way to stay legal.. unless some republicans raise up the fee. it won’t matter to me..

  • prasad

    hello i am new. i completed my biology Masters in Texas a&m kingsville . i am from india. i have f1 visa. is there any jobs in usa on biology.

    • kr

      Job market looks tough for all majors. But are’t you applying for internships? Are your friends/classmates getting jobs?

  • Mahesh Lele

    Simple laws of demand and supply will ensure wages, for Americans and also for those Indians who are already here, to be pushed down.

    Salaries in India are so low because of demand supply mismatch.

    Does Obama want to repeat the same thing in America for sake of votes?

  • Ud

    When will they implement this?

  • Foreign accountant

    What about accountants??

  • Taha Inam Khan

    USCIS says maximum duration is 29 months for OPT,,,
    What about 6 years ??? is it wrong or not updated yet ??

  • Seamus

    I enjoyed this article, Sujeet, and thank you for the update. Keep in mind, the OPT program is not meant to be a full-time job for the student; it was designed to provide the opportunity for the student to work in their chosen field of study while they are going to college – not replace their studies and not as an option for full time employment once they are finished with school. What this new extension will do however, is allow F1 visa students to not only work, but also to work longer here in the USA so they can obtain other additional opportunities and increase their chances of getting a work visa so they can stay, if they want to. Remember that the F1 visa is a temporary visa and students legally agree to return to their home country when they are finished with their studies. This new extension lets them stay longer, which the USA is not all too happy with in the first place, but this is a positive change for international students who want to stay here as long as possible. Feel feel to read more details on my site at gousavisacenter.com. Thanks!

  • ashwani

    So what about the professionals who are already on H1B visas. If due to some reason the H1B sponsorship is withdrawn by the employer will the status of the professional revert back to OPT status ?

  • js

    What would this mean for someone who has gone from OPT status back to CPT? I am currently on OPT status and since my OPT expires this month have decided to go back to school and work full-time on CPT. Would this new rule change mean that I would not need to go back to school? Also if one has already changed status to CPT, would they still be eligible to go back on OPT?

  • ap selvan

    it is an excellent move by USA DHS. Actually usa should help students who come to usa to study and if required The President of usa should exercise his executive powers to build confidence of world talent coming to usa for studies

    • Kitty Cats

      The President of usa should exercise his executive powers to help Americans get the STEM educations they need so they can fill the jobs………….problem is I don’t think this can be addressed by his powers. I think corporate America (Republicans) are too greedy for the bottom line and don’t give a sh** about their fellow Americans getting jobs.

      • Archangel of High Heavens

        I completely agree with you.

  • Demetres Dima Younack

    I think international students F1 should be able to work 20 hours a week (part time) so they can have time to focus on studying, not working.

    • Alberto

      Opt is the work authorization that you can get after graduation. If an international student wants to work before graduation then it’s called cpt and the maximum during fall and spring semester is 20h/week as you said.

    • Vanson

      This proposal is about OPT, which is a status for F1 student “after” they have completed their studies.

    • IntStudent

      F1 visa doesn’t allow off-campus jobs but does allow on-campus jobs that have a 20-hr/week cap. I’m starting my graduate program in STEM soon and what on-campus jobs can teach me hands-on experience? I don’t think there is any or it’s just too rare to find one. Remember one thing. International students are STUDENTS too, who are no different from American students.

  • vbierschwale

    Personally I think we should do more to Keep America at Work by hiring Americans in America

    • Archangel of High Heavens

      I am an Indian and I agree with you.

      • Anvesh Reddy

        When does this get implemented.? Does it also apply for the students who came earlier and working on OPT now.

      • Jat Sakas are not skinny Dravi

        You’re not an Indian, you’re some brahmin or bania Patel type Indian sellout, your haplogroups are born to kiss arrse.

        • Archangel of High Heavens

          See, that is what it is. You want to judge for everything. You don’t even know anything about me.
          And by the way just because I have written something on the internet, US government wouldn’t remove all Indians from US. So you don’t have to get offended for any reason and you can go head with judging people.

    • jack

      Explain “Americans”. What do you mean by that ?

    • Ashley

      It’s a fantastic idea to keep more Americans at work but the fact is that without retaining international students in STEM fields, we have no chance at being able to remain competitive with other nations in science and engineering fields. We simply do not have enough Americans to be able to fill this positions.

      Don’t believe me?
      http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/05/07/report-33-percent-of-international-students-in-stem-fields
      http://money.cnn.com/2013/01/31/smallbusiness/stem-immigrants/

      • FastForwardAfter

        Nonsense, there have been no notable innovations by any H-1B or previously H-1B person in the history of the H-1B program which started in 1990. Surely by now there would have been at least one.

        The entire OPT/CPT and H-1B program can be scrapped without affecting the innovatins in the U.S.

        • neelmeghashyam

          Not true… Yes H1b is being gamed by AMERICAN corporate CEOs for their bottom line and the Indian body shoppers are filling the need. Both are GAMING the system….

          But people with higher education who actually start out as F1 and go to OPT and then H1b and then green card have contributed a lot.

          http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/26/tech/innovation/usb-intel-billion-seller/index.html

          http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/stories/2009/06/01/daily84.html

          Rajeev was the technical advisor in college and during start of google for Google owners

          There are tons in applied scientists , doctors who do come on this program…..
          BUT THE PROGRAM HAS BEEN HIJACKED BY CORPORATE AMERICA GREED

          • FastForwardAfter

            The two people you referenced were working in America before the H-1B program started, and nowhere does it state that they benefited from the H-1B or the OPT training program. If you can find any reference to them linked to a work visa program, please share.

            There is no shortage of applied scientists or doctors in the U.S. That is a myth.

      • EndUser2015

        That is the fault of our Government failing to keep pace and funding to STEM programs… companies own DC excuse me lobbyists representing ‘interests of their backers’ … they all need to be shown the door and candidates need to spend 100% their own cash in elections… I for one am tired of the ‘For Sale’ sign that has been over DC for way too long!

        Of course why would companies want DC to do that when they have this lovely H1B program to exploit and hire modern day slave labor of the IT industry… it is terrible and pathetic and it has to changed – and we the people need to tell DC no more and take our representatives back and demand they start expressing the people interest and not corporations and their share holders!

      • Eric Wright

        Those are old, look at the economy today. The days are numbered for H1B, too many unemployed Americans for H1, F1 or whatever visa.

    • Alyssa

      You should get to know more international students. What do you mean by “American”? If it means “hard-working”, “smart”, and “friendly”, I think they are qualified!

    • Gerardo Leal Villarreal

      let me guess… you didn’t got a nice grade on your Macroeconomics class, right? Or History maybe? Some immigrants like Nikola Tesla or Albert Einstein. You would be talking German by now without the latter one. Keep it up in life :)

    • Rhythm Joshi

      Ya, only if there are enough educated and skilled “Americans” available.

    • john williams

      Personally, I think it is a ridiculous immigration policy to tell industrious highly educated people, who will pay more taxes than they will use in services, to leave our country. Capitalism is not a zero sum game. Let’s let them expand our production and create more good jobs. Low skill illegal immigrants will tax our social services in the name of cheaper vegetables, and they won’t create more jobs.

  • OhioProgrammer

    The H1B visa program is hurting America’s ability to compete. It should be abolished.

    • Archangel of High Heavens

      I agree with you. Why we have to pay taxes when H1B visa holders loose job suddenly and cannot get a job?

      • Karan Sharma

        :) H1B pays taxes just like you.
        and those jobs are offered to qualified people. I am sorry if you don’t fall in that category

        • Archangel of High Heavens

          Its not about qualification. I am in United States from eight years and I have been in H1B visa from three years.
          If you want to check my linkedin profile for an evidence
          https://www.linkedin.com/in/manuieee

          Think about F-1 visa, you don’t have to pay a penny when you don’t have job and taxes are less (in the year 2010 it was 18% approx or so). But when you have H1B you are bound to the company unless you leave and taxes around 33% and what if you don’t get a job for four consecutive months?

          • Srinivas

            Well said!

          • RANGER BATTALION

            my cousin was in H1b. and finally got his green card after 7 years.. He had a 3.99 from Baruch college. most americans don’t have that okay. they chose cream of the crop and its not about losing jobs.. if you are talented and know all the software in IT.. you deserver to get it. i went back to india and got another way through Eb5 as i have a hotel and invested in another hotel in US.. not going through that H1B as it takes too long.. americans are qualified but its a tough race

          • Archangel of High Heavens

            I too came back to India because I did not got job, waited for almost like 10 months+ paid H1B taxes from my pocket (when I have no job), maintained proper legal status, I did not got a job even though I have real time experience. still no luck.

            Now, I do not want to go back because its more like slavery business. The meaning of freedom for US is like “Put a bird in the cage and say this is your freedom”

      • dast

        H1b holders pay taxes, as much as nationals, and they will never reip the benefits of, medicare for example.

        • Archangel of High Heavens

          Forget about the medicare, technically don’t have freedom when you loose the job.

          For example what if you don’t have a job more than two consecutive months for some reason, everyone gets very aggressive to you and your employer says leave to your country you could not find a job.

    • jack

      Being able to compete is the first condition to call yourself american.

      • teh

        If we are able to compete with fellow Americans without connections and contacts, I think it is time to reevaluate your skillsets, boy.
        Go back to school maybe? Or wait for McDonalds to pay you 15 dollars an hour?

        • Simon Palacios

          $15/h at McDonalds?? Not in the US. The wage is $7.25 an hour

    • Support Immigration

      No, I don’t agree with you. I think the current problem is that the H1B is abused by some companies to replace American workers. The fault is on those companies, nor H1B visa itself. Just like you can NOT forbid the sale of guns merely because someone uses a gun to kill a good man. What should be done is to set more restrictions and more requirements on it and punish those companies which abuse this visa to replace American workers.