Foreign students who enter the U.S. as bonafide students qualified to pursue a full course of study may undertake practical training. A period of practical training must serve a legitimate purpose. For example, it cannot be used by a U.S. employer to train a foreign national for a permanent position in the United States. It can be used, however, to train a recent graduate for placement with a company office abroad, as a trial period to assess the alien’s skills, or for any reason other than permanent placement in the U.S.
There are two types of permissible pre-graduation practical training directly related to the student’s major area of study, and two types of permissible post graduation practical training:
Pre-Graduation Practical Training is Permissible-
- During the student’s annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session, if the student is attending a college, university, seminary, or conservatory and is eligible to register for the next term or semester (and intends to do so), or
- During the school year, provided that employment does not exceed 20 hours per week while school is in session.
Post Completion Practical Training is Permissible-
- When the student is in a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral program and has completed all course requirements for the degree (excluding a thesis or its equivalent), or
- When the student has completed his or her course of study.
Collectively, these forms of practical training are referred to as “optional” practical training. All optional practical training must be completed within a 14-month period following the completion of study. Optional practical training is additional to “curricular” practical training available to foreign students attending schools offering such curricular programs.
Key Features of Optional Practical Training
Note the following key features of the optional practical training work program:
- A student is eligible for optional practical training for a total period of 12 months per educational level. Time spent in pre-graduation practical training is subtracted from the overall 12-month ceiling on all optional practical training, and therefore may limit the availability to the student of further pre-graduation practical training or post graduation practical training.
- A student becomes eligible for another 12 months of practical training when he or she changes to a higher educational level. For example, a student may request 12 months of practical training after completion of a bachelor’s degree and another 12 months after completion of a Ph. D. degree.
- If a student leaves the United States for more than five months before returning and resumes studies here in a new course of study in F-1 status, he or she is considered to be undertaking a new period of stay, and is eligible for an entirely new 12-month period of optional practical training.
- If the student departs for a shorter period, however, no additional period of practical training is accorded to the student.
- A student may not participate in any optional practical training if he or she has spent 12 months or more working full-time in a curricular practical training program, If the student has taken less than 12 months of full-time curricular practical training, however, the student is eligible for the full one-year period of optional practical training.
- Time spent in curricular practical training is not subtracted from the overall 12-month ceiling on optional practical training.
- Students in language training programs are not authorized to receive optional practical training.
- The practical training must be in a position that is directly related to the student’s major area of study.
- A student must have been in F-1 status for at least one full academic
With regard to post completion practical training, continued enrollment, for the school’s administrative purposes, after all requirements for the degree have been met this does not preclude eligibility for optional practical completion of all course requirements for the degree or prior to the completion of the course of study.
- The student may not begin optional practical training until the date indicated on his or her employment authorization document.
- A student may submit an application for authorization to engage in optional practical training up to 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year, provided that the period of employment will not begin until after the completion of the full academic year as indicated by the DSO.
- Authorization to engage in optional practical training employment is automatically terminated when the student transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level.
- While engaging in full-time post graduation practical training, a student may attend school part-time. On the other hand, a student may not engage in part-time practical training after completion of studies and attend school part-time, because maintenance of student status is contingent on pursuing a full course of study or engaging in full-time practical training.
- For the same reason, a student cannot engage in full-time post graduation practical training while also attending school full-time.
- The Service does not allow recapture of unused periods of optional practical training once employment begins.
Procedures to Obtain Optional Practical Training
The USCIS rules set out the following procedural steps for a foreign student to obtain optional practical training:
- The student must request a recommendation from the DSO for practical training.
- A student may request optional practical training up to 90 days prior to completing one full academic year, provided that the period of employment will not begin until after the completion of the full academic year as indicated by the DSO.
- Permitting students to apply for practical training well before completing one full academic year is important because pre graduation practical training is usually short in duration (three months or less) and a student may not engage in practical training until an EDD is issued.
- The USCIS service center may take 90 days to issue an EDD. Allowing students to make an early application should help to avoid any problems caused by a delay in USCIS processing.
- With regard to post completion practical training, optional practical training must be requested prior to the completion of all course requirements for the degree or prior to the completion of the course of study.
- In these cases, the student should be aware that the EDD will be issued only up to a date no later than 14 months after the completion of studies; if the EDD is not issued until more than two months after completion of studies, the student may not be issued a full 12-month period of practical training even if he or she had not previously used any period of optional practical training.
- D student seeking a 12-month period of post graduation practical training, therefore, should try to obtain a placement well before he or she graduates and apply for the EDD as early as possible; by doing so, he or she will avoid forfeiting any time because of delays in USCIS processing.
- For practical training following completion of studies, the EDD will be valid from the date the EDD is issued or the date the student completes his or her studies, whichever is later. Once the student is issued an EDD and he or she begins the training, however, there is no way of recapturing any unused portion of practical training authorized by the Service as reflected in the EDD.
- The designated school official completes the certification in SEVIS. Form I-538 is no longer required in these cases under the SEVIS rule issued in December 2002. The DSO will then print the employment page of the student’s Form 1-20, and sign and date the form to indicate that optional practical training has been recommended.
- Form 1-765
- Form 1-20, with the employment page demonstrating the DSO’s comments and certification
- Copy of Form 1-94 (front and back)
- Copy of the front and back of any previously issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- Two photographs (full-face, passport-style, the same type used for the adjustment application)
- Filing fee of $175 payable by check or money order to the “Department of Homeland Security.”
- The EAD may be sent to the student directly from the service center, or it may be forwarded to the nearest USCIS district office, where the student will be notified to pick it up in person.
- If Form I-765 is not adjudicated by the service center within 90 days of receipt, the student may go to the local USCIS district office with proof of identity and all communications from the USCIS service center (including the ling receipt on Form I-797C), and an interim FAD will be issued valid for 240 days or until the application is adjudicated by the service center.
- Form I-765 is illustrated and annotated as Sample Form 2-6. That annotation covers the use of the form for practical training applications, as well as applications based on unforeseen economic necessity.
- As an alternative to filing by mail, applicants are now able to electronically complete and submit Form 1-765 and the related filing fee through links on the USCIS homepage (http://www.uscis.gov).When completing the application electronically, users should note that an e-filing session will “timeout” after 15 minutes of inactivity.
- Apart from submitting the supporting documents to the USCIS office, the applicant will be instructed (on the confirmation receipt notice), to call the USCIS National Customer Service Center (at 1-800-375-5283) to schedule an appointment with a local Application Support Center (ASC). The ASC will collect a digital photograph, signature, and fingerprints from the applicant.
- Once the application is approved, the EDD (in I-765 cases) will he sent to the applicant by mail. With regard to pre-graduation practical training, the EDD will be issued for the full period of recommended practical training-usually three months for a summer employment assignment.
- Part-time pre-graduation practical training is indicated on the I-20 as endorsed by the designated school official; the EAD will not reflect part-time employment authorization.
- With regard to post graduation practical training, the EDD will likely be issued for the full period of recommended practical training (12 months if the student did not engage in any pre-graduation practical training), unless the EDD is not issued until more than two months after completion of studies; employment authorization may be issued only up to the period ending no later than 14 months after the completion of studies.
- The EDD may be accepted by the employer for employment eligibility verification on Form I-“9. If the student travels abroad, and has a valid visa for return to the United States, he or she will be admitted with the unexpired EAD, even though he or she does not have Form I-20 ID Copy
Procedure to Obtain a Continuation of Optional Practical Training
- Students who wish to continue in a pre-graduation practical training program may apply for further authorization under the procedures outlined above provided he or she has not met the 12-month ceiling on optional practical training and the student has not engaged in 12 months of full-time curricular practical training.
- With regard to post graduation practical training, foreign students do not need to file an application to continue practical training if the full 12 months is granted initially, which is permissible under the rules. Once the student is issued a 12-month EDD and he or she begins the training, there is no way of recapturing any unused portion of practical training. If the student plans to transfer into a higher educational level, however, he or she is eligible for another 12-month period of practical training.
Visa Issuance and Travel for a Student Granted Practical Training
A student who is applying for permission to accept practical training will already have a valid F-1 visa stamped in his or her passport. The F-1 visa is obtained prior to entering the U.S. by submitting the prepared visa application to the U.S. consulate.
Some students, however, may have an expired visa for one of two reasons:
- The student’s visa was originally issued with a validity date based on his or her projected period of study in the U.S.
- The student comes from a country for which the period of visa validity is limited on the basis of reciprocity.
- Students who are seeking to renew their F-1 nonimmigrant visas in order to continue in a program of optional practical training after completion of classes must also present a Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility that is properly annotated by the designated school official, according to recent State Department guidance issued in January 2004. If the form is not properly annotated, the visa application will be denied.
- The January 2004 guidance reminds consular officers that they must review the Form I-20 when adjudicating student visa applications for individuals seeking to continue in a program of optional practical training after classes. Specifically, the third page of the I-20 form must be properly annotated by the DSO before the visa application may be approved.
- SEVIS records should also reflect the DSO’s recommendation for optional practical training, with a new, separate entry in the SEVIS database indicating the optional practical training program. If such an entry has not been made, consular officers are instructed not to issue the F-1 visa. In these cases, students should contact their DSO’s to ensure that their SEVIS records have been updated.
Travel and Readmission during Optional Practical Training: In a related matter, the ICE has recently changed its policies concerning travel during optional practical training. The new policy permits F-1 and J-1 with approved practical training to depart and reenter the United States only if they obtained a job or job offer before departure. If the foreign national has an approved practical training but departs the United States before he or she gets a job or job offer, the practical training ends and the foreign national cannot reenter. If the foreign national has a job or job offer, he or she may travel and reenter the United States to resume work at the same job. If the foreign national has not yet begun the job, he or she should carry a job offer letter from the employer.
The F-1 Visa (Academic Student) allows you to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. You must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate and your school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.If you are a potential immigrant or are already in the United States, an immigration lawyer Fairfax can help you find successful answers to many of the legal issues that foreign citizens face. Please contact Wani & Associates for a free consultation. We can be reached by telephone, fax, or by filling out the client intake form. Call Now at: 1-866-755-9264