OPT legal work for international students

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By Alejandra Hurtado

Spanish Editor

The F-1 student visa for international students has employment restrictions; nevertheless, Optional Practice Training (also known as OPT), is a legal option for international students looking to gain experience and economic benefits in their fields while working off campus during and after their educations at Tyler Junior College.

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s official website, “Optional practical training is one type of work permission available for eligible F-1 students. It allows students to get real-world work experience related to their field of study.”

Nidia Arellano Hassan, director of admissions at Tyler Junior College, said that OPT is a good benefit that The Department of Immigration provides to international students. Also, Arellano referred to OPT as a practical way to decide whether or not it is the major they have chosen is the one.

“For many of the students, of course, it’s a financial aid that the OPT gives to them because they chose to work and receive a salary during that year,” Arellano said.

Judy Tenacious Millien, international student of Surveying and Mapping Technology said, “The only way I am able to gain additional work experience in my field is by returning The Bahamas, however, the OPT eliminates the added expense and stress of going home by granting me the opportunity to legally work in the United States for a year.”

Before applying, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement asks a series of questions to consider eligible students for this work option inside the U.S. Among them are such questions as,

“Have you been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis in a DHS-approved college, university, conservatory, or seminary for one full academic year? Are you currently maintaining F-1 status? Is your practical training proposed directly related to your major area of study?”

Arellano said OPT does not have a specific deadline, “but we suggest to students that if they want to apply to OPT for a certain semester, the process takes between three to six months, they should allow enough time for the process to be approved by Immigration.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), OPT authorizes 12 months of practical training for students with an F-1 visa. There are two types of OPT to apply in TJC on which depend on the current academic situation for each student.

* Pre-Completion OPT is offered to students who are still in their academic process. It may be part-time or full-time.

* Post-Completion OPT is based on practice after graduation from the program. Students must work full time.

“We don’t have many students [working for OPT] because most of them want to finish their associate’s degree and go to the university, but there a lot who take a break between college and university,” Arellano said. “Right now, we have approximately eight to 10 students who are approved and are taking advantage of the OPT and approximately 6 students in the process of application for OPT.”

“This is extremely essential to me, because I am preparing to take my SIT exam [Surveyor in training] and one of the requirements is at least two years of work experience, so I will need all the experience I can get” said Millien.

“The first time they apply they’re usually approved and there are no problems,” Arellano said.

According to Arellano, The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website (www.uscis.gov) offers not only necessary information regarding OPT; but also, formats, the procedure and requirements to complete the application.

* Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization has a cost of $ 380 USD this year 2016.

* The SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) updated.

* Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.

* Two passport size photographs 2 x 2 inches (5 x 5 cm).

“When they [students] want to transfer to the University and they want to take OPT again, they can do it” said Arellano. “But, we recommend they think about it because that means they are going to extend their studies for another year, which also includes housing, food and transportation costs for a year.”

OPT provides international students not only a chance to increase their experience on their field, but also the possibility of linking themselves directly with a company in the future. “There are many students who take advantage of that year working with a company, of course, and demonstrate their skills as employees and if the company is willing to sponsor the student, they could help change the status of the student and offer them a contract, of course, strengthening their resume,” she said.

For more information call 903-510-2590 to the admissions office at Tyler Junior College or contact Daisy LaRue, coordinator of international students via e-mail st dlar@tjc.edu or Nidia Arellano Hassan at nhas@tjc.edu.

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