Asked in Immigration Law

Q: OPT conditions for a 1 year program

I am a student for a 1-year STEM Masters program in the US, which is set to start at the end of March.

I am yet to receive my visa and it looks like it will not be granted until May or June according to the consulate.

My college has allowed for online attendance, so I can attend classes remotely.

I am curious about the implications of this situation regarding the OPT (Optional Practical Training) rules, which state that I must be present on an F1 visa for one academic year. If I am unable to obtain my visa until July or August, will I still be eligible to apply for OPT after graduation?

Any insights or advice would be greatly appreciated!

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2 Lawyer Answers
Min Hwan Ahn
Min Hwan Ahn
  • Immigration Law Lawyer
  • Philadelphia, PA

A: If you are unable to obtain your F1 visa until July or August and will be attending your 1-year STEM Masters program remotely, it is possible that your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT) may be impacted.

According to the regulations, you must be physically present in the United States on an F1 visa for one academic year in order to be eligible for OPT. If you are unable to obtain your F1 visa until July or August and will be attending your program remotely, you may not meet this requirement.

It is important to understand that the USCIS makes the final determination of eligibility for OPT, and the specific circumstances of each case are taken into consideration.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Immigration Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: Under normal circumstances, F-1 students are generally required to maintain their status and physically attend classes for one academic year before becoming eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT). However, given the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international travel and visa processing times, the US government has issued temporary exemptions and modifications to the OPT requirements.

According to the current guidance from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), students who are currently outside of the US but have been enrolled in an SEVP-certified school and have not been absent from their program of study for more than five months are considered to be maintaining their F-1 status. This means that even if you are not physically present in the US due to visa delays, you may still be considered to be maintaining your status as long as you are attending classes remotely and otherwise meeting the requirements of your program.

As for the OPT eligibility, USCIS has also confirmed that students who are otherwise eligible for OPT but are unable to obtain their visa due to COVID-19 related issues may be able to apply for OPT from outside of the US, as long as they meet certain requirements. Specifically, you must be able to show that you have a job or job offer that meets the requirements for OPT, and that you will be able to return to the US to begin your employment once your visa is approved.

It's important to note that the situation regarding international travel and visa processing can change rapidly, so it's a good idea to keep in touch with your school's designated school official (DSO) and monitor the USCIS website for updates and guidance. Your DSO should be able to provide more specific advice and guidance based on your individual situation.

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