working in the US
Indian graduates can work in the US on a number of visas / Source: CINDY ORD / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

Are you an Indian student who’s about to graduate from a US university? Or are you simply thinking about working in the US at the end of your programme?

You’ll be glad to know that this is completely possible — especially if you’re studying at or graduating from a top university. Many Indian nationals have found unparallelled success in the US after graduating from a US university, like Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai. 

If you’ve got an F-1 visa, you should know that you’re only permitted to remain in the US for 60 days after your graduation date. Because of this, it’s best that you plan ahead to ensure you’re able to legally work in the US by the time you graduate. Here’s a guide we’ve compiled for Indian graduates:

Many successful Indians began working in the US after graduation. Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

Working in the US: During your studies

The best way to do this is by finding work during your studies. Internships and part-time work are a great way for you to develop new skills and gain exposure to your industry. You’ll also be more prepared to demonstrate your level of experience to your future employer. 

Under the F-1 visa, you have the right to work in the US with a number of restrictions. 

On-campus work is the most flexible type of work you can take up; generally, you won’t need approval from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for that. You’re allowed to work up to 20 hours per week while studying and full-time during holidays and vacation periods. 

For off-campus work, you may need to apply for optional practical training (OPT) or curricular practical training (CPT) status. Both will allow you to work off-campus while you’re completing your degree, the only difference being that the CPT should be used for any internship or work components to your degree. 

However, you should know that OPT only gives students permission to work for 12 months, and this does not reset once you graduate. This means that if you choose to work off-campus under OPT while you’re studying for four months, you will only have four months available to you after you graduate. 

For more information on working in the US during your studies, here’s a great guide

Working in the US: After your studies

Of course, working in the US after your studies is the main goal. You can do so under a number of visas: 

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT also gives you the option to work in any line of work after you’ve graduated provided that it’s related to your field of study. This is usually more favourable to international students as it provides more flexibility than the CPT, which must be completed as part of a programme’s curriculum. 

Generally, any F-1 student who has studied full-time in the US for at least one year can qualify for OPT. Under OPT, you’ll be able to stay and work in the US for up to 12 months. STEM students or graduates may qualify for a 24-month extension. 

The best part? You don’t need a job offer to submit an application for OPT. It’s a great way for you to build connections within your industry. This may also help you gain sponsorship from a US employer who would like to hire you on a permanent basis under a H-1B visa. 

Applying for OPT takes time, so you should plan in advance. According to the USCIS, you can apply for post-completion OPT 90 days before you complete your degree or 60 days after you graduate. 

Here’s how to apply for OPT: 

  1. Your Designated School Official (DSO) has to enter a request for your OPT in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)
  2. Your DSO will confirm your eligibility and update your application form
  3. You’ll then have to submit the form I-765 for employment authorisation. If you need guidance on this, you should contact your university. 
  4. Wait until USCIS approves your OPT. Once this is done, you can begin working!

H-1B visa

Another alternative to working in the US is to be sponsored by an employer via the H-1B visa, which will typically be directly related to your field of study. This will allow you to live and work in the US for up to six years. 

You can transfer your F-1 student visa for this type of visa if you have an employer willing to sponsor you, or use the OPT visa to gain some work experience at a company who might then be willing to sponsor you. With the H-1B visa, you’ll be able to earn the same wages and enjoy the same job conditions as your US counterparts. 

How, then, might you find an employer willing to sponsor you? 

First and foremost, you should cross out any companies that don’t sponsor international applicants. This way, you’ll save a lot of time by applying to companies that will definitely hire foreigners.

Once that’s done, you can start applying! Search for jobs that are related to your field of study, fix up your resume, and practise for your interviews. It’s always best to be as prepared as possible to ensure that you appear as attractive as possible to your potential future employer. 

STEM graduates can apply for an extension to their OPT.Source: Karen Ducey/Getty Images via AFP

Work your way towards a green card

With time, effort and dedication, you can work your way towards obtaining a green card — your key to permanent residency in the US. This can be tricky because of its high demand, but not impossible. 

You could apply for a green card yourself or through your employer. If you have worked with a US company for a few years and have proven to your employer that you are an invaluable asset, they may be willing to put in an application for you. You could also petition for one yourself under a number of conditions

We hope that this guide was useful for you. Enjoy the rest of your studies in the US, and good luck!