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OPT/CPT Training for Foreign Nationals

Foreign nationals enrolled in F-1 student status have the option of working in the United States by engaging in practical training during their academic program, or upon completing their program.  Practical training can provide valuable work experience by sharpening and adding to the skill set students acquire while enrolled in school.  There are two types of practical training available to F-1 students: curricular practical training (CPT), and optional practical training (OPT).

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US Department of Homeland Security Provides Work Authorization for Certain H-4 Spouses

U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require a Bachelor’s or higher degree and theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as science, engineering and computer programming. In addition to specialty occupation workers, the H-1B classification applies to individuals performing services related to a Department of Defense cooperative research and development project or coproduction project, and individuals performing services of distinguished merit and ability in the field of fashion modeling. A H-4 visa, on the other hand, is a visa issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the primary H-1B visa holder.

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The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration – Related Unfair Employment Practices issues guidance on employment of F-1 student visa holders.

On April 30, 2014, the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration – Related Unfair Employment Practices (“OSC”) issued a technical assistance letter in response to an inquiry regarding employment of F-1 student visa holders. Specifically, the question was whether or not an employer could decline to consider a job applicant who was in F-1 student visa status with optional practical training (“OPT”). In the scenario presented, the student’s OPT status was set to expire three months after application for employment. Complicating the potential employer’s decision was the fact that the student did not possess the ability to extend employment eligibility beyond the remaining three month authorized period because his academic studies were not in a STEM field; the employer had not enrolled in E-Verify; and the student was not eligible for any other available work authorization status.

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