Published November 3, 2016 on NTDaily.com
The UNT international office is giving international students the chance to stay in the U.S. and work for a year after graduation with a program called Post Optional Practical Training.
OPT is temporary employment in a student’s field of study for 12 months after graduation. The program gives students a work permit called the employment authorization document. Any international student that has an F-1 visa and has been a full-time student for one academic year can apply.
Advisor in the international office, Brianne Faber, said about 480 students apply for OPT each year.
“Students apply for 12 months of work authorization through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services,” Faber said. “As long as the student applying is eligible and submits their application in a timely manner, work authorization is approved.”
Faber said OPT has been offered for decades and allows students to gain job experience and training.
International student from Nicaragua, Dressel Cruz, applied and was accepted into the OPT program. Cruz is an economics senior who is currently working as a teaching assistant in the department.
The soon-to-be graduate plans to work with OPT for 8 months before moving on to his top-choice graduate program at Pennsylvania State University – once accepted, of course.
“OPT is helping me to raise money and is helping me stay in the country while I get my new student visa,” Cruz said. “I’m going to be working with the economics department with my old TA position, get a part time job, then, knock on wood, hopefully I’ll get into grad school.”
Though Cruz is using the OPT program to his advantage, but he wishes the program was more flexible.
“It’s hard because employers don’t want to hire you because they know they can only use you for one year,” Cruz said. “You are in a disadvantage in that case. It would be nice if those who graduate from here had an easier path to a work visa.”
Cruz still has to wait a few months until his EAD card comes in, but he was accepted into the program in just a few weeks.
Senior international student Ruben Lopez Resillas from Mexico City is studying engineering and is applying for OPT until he can apply for work visa.
“I heard about the OPT program since my freshman year but I wasn’t aware of what it was,” Lopez Resillas said. “As I started to go into my senior year and I had to start to see more about internships and everything, I informed myself about the CPT and OPT programs.”
Curricular practical training, CPT, allows Lopez Resillas to work off campus at St. Jude Medical as a mechanical engineer while he is still in school. Lopez Resillas even has a full-time job offer waiting for him once he graduates.
“I think they are really good programs that let us get opportunities and jobs,” Lopez Resillas said. “I just think OPT should be a bit longer for students in fields other than STEM fields. I mean like music and etcetera so they have a chance to land a job.”
Students who majored in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – qualify for a 24 month OPT extension.
Students can apply for the program up to 90 days before and no later than 60 days after graduation. You must work at least 20 hours a week. Employment can be a paid or unpaid job, an internship and they can combine jobs to complete their weekly hour minimum.
To apply, students must score a 100 percent on the OPT quiz. Once a passing grade is received, they will be directed to the application forms. The quiz has three attempts.
International students looking to apply for OPT can find more information on the UNT international website here.