How to Get a Work Permit After Graduation in the USA

If you have just crossed the finish line and graduated from a U.S. university – Congratulations! Now it’s time to launch an exciting career here. The U.S.A is one of the best countries in the world to build your career as a recent graduate. It’s a land of limitless opportunities, where dreams take shape and careers are forged.

How to Get a Work Permit After Graduation in the USA

As a recent graduate, you’re at the threshold of an exciting journey, and the USA offers a dynamic platform to launch your career to new heights. If you are ready to get started, you can get a job but to work here as a graduate, you need a work permit, previously, your student status was enough to help you get a job (without a work permit) but as a graduate, the case is different.

If you’re wondering how to snag a work permit after your studies, this guide will reveal just that for you.

Do International Students get Jobs in the USA after Graduation?

Yes, as an international student in the USA, you can get a job after graduation. The United States offers opportunities for international students to work and gain practical experience, they have programs like Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

These programs allow students to work in their field of study for a certain period after completing their studies. Additionally, at the end of these programs, you can transition to other work visas, such as the H-1B visa, which allows employers to hire foreign workers (like you) with specialized skills.

Understand Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a program that lets international students stay in the U.S. for up to 12 months (or up to 36 months for STEM degree holders) after completing their studies to gain practical work experience in their field.

Think of it as a special permission that allows you, as an international student, to stay in the USA for a specific time after your studies. During this time, you can work and gain practical experience related to what you studied.

To get the OPT, you need to apply, once your application is approved, you will be issued a special work permit called an “Employment Authorization Document” (EAD).

How to get a work permit after graduation in the USA?

Prepare the right documents

If you are ready to apply for the Optional Practical Training, below are the documents you need, you should put these documents together before starting your application.

  • Form I-765: This is the form that lets you apply for OPT. You can get it from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
  • Photos: You also need two U.S. passport-sized photos.
  • Copy of Passport: Keep your passport close; you’ll need a copy of the biographical page.
  • Copy of I-94: Print out your electronic I-94 record from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website.
  • Copy of I-20: You also need your I-20 form and it should be endorsed by your Designated School Official (DSO) for OPT.

Without these documents, your application will not be approved so keep them together before starting your application.

Apply for OPT

Once you have your documents with you, you can start your application. Fill out Form I-765 with the requested details.

This form is your golden ticket, so ensure the info is spot on. Remember to check the USCIS website for the correct version of the form.

Pay the fee

The application fee is usually around $410 (as of our last update). The check should be payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Keep a copy of the check (after payment) for your records.

Gather your documents

Put all your documents together, they include Form I-765, fee payment, passport copy, I-94 copy, and endorsed I-20.

Label it clearly so they know it’s your OPT application.

Send the Application

You can email your application to the USCIS lockbox. Make sure you send it with tracking and keep a record of the delivery.

Wait patiently

Once your application is received, the waiting game begins – you have to wait for a decision to be made on your application. It usually takes around 3 to 5 months to process your OPT application. Use this time to plan your next steps.

Get your EAD

If your application is complete, it will be approved, once your application is approved, you’ll receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

This is your official permission slip to work in the U.S. Make sure the info is correct.

Start your work experience

Congratulations, you’ve made it! You can now start working in your field. As you work, just remember to report your employment to your school’s DSO and follow the rules of the OPT program.

As your OPT period draws to a close, you can weigh your options and chart the course for the next chapter of your professional journey. If your degree falls under the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math) category, you have the option of extending your stay in the USA.

With the STEM OPT extension, you can continue working and gaining practical experience for an additional 24 months. This not only allows you to delve deeper into your field but also enhances your prospects of landing more advanced roles and honing specialized skills.

Transition to a work visa

If you do not fall under the STEM category, you can transition to a work visa to continue working in the U.S. You can explore work visa options like the H-1B visa for specialty occupations, which could be a strategic move.

This visa allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in positions that require specialized knowledge and expertise. You can use this as a bridge to establish yourself further in your chosen field.

Final Thoughts

If you wish to work in the U.S. after graduation, getting the Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a great opportunity for you. As you’ve discovered in this guide, OPT offers you the chance to gain hands-on experience, build connections, and lay the foundation for your future career.

It’s a stepping stone to growth, both personally and professionally. The USA, with its diverse industries, innovative spirit, and global networking opportunities, provides an ideal canvas for you to paint your professional journey.

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