Entering the professional world as a new graduate Registered Nurse on an F-1 visa in the United States can be both exciting and daunting. One of the most critical steps in this journey is understanding the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. It’s clear that while OPT is a common term bandied about in academic circles, not every F-1 nursing graduate has a grasp of what it entails or the process involved. All Med Search is here to change that. We’re shedding light on the essential elements of the OPT process that a new grad RN on an F-1 visa must know to transition smoothly from academic success to professional practice.
The window for your Occupation Practice Training starts on the day you graduate and will expire exactly 12 months after the day you graduate. If you want to start working immediately after you graduate, you should apply for your OPT sometime during the 90 days before your graduate because it can take up to 3 months for OPT to be approved. Applying late may result in the loss of OPT time and, as a result limit employment opportunities available to you post-graduation. Be sure to keep in constant contact with your Designated Student Official or International Advisor through this whole process as their involvement and support is key!
Document Preparation: The Key to a Smooth Application
Timing: Don’t Miss Your Window
You can apply for OPT 90 days before and up to 60 days after your graduation. This timeline is strict: USCIS must receive your application within this period. Timing is crucial, as applications sent too early or late are rejected without a refund.
A common hurdle in the OPT application process is the mismanagement of documentation. Ensure you have the following together when preparing your application.
- Two identical natural color passport photos, taken within the last 30 days, with your name and SEVIS number on the back. Remember, photos from your home country will not suffice.
- Your new I-20 form received post-OPT application session.
- Any prior CPT authorizations.
- Your latest I-94 form.
- A copy of your passport’s photo page and your most recent U.S. visa.
- If applicable, your previous EAD card.
- Fees and Payments: The OPT application comes with a fee of $495. This can be paid through a check or money order to the “United States Department of Homeland Security.” We recommend using a personal check for easier tracking.
The Step-by-Step OPT Application Process
- Complete the I-765 Form.
- Meet with your ISS Advisor for a new OPT-recommending I-20.
- Submit the necessary documents to USCIS.
- Upon approval, receive your EAD. Your EAD card is proof of your employment authorization. When approved, you’ll find the specific 12-month period in which you can work.
Beyond the 12-Month OPT Period
Participating in OPT allows you to have a chance to build your experience so that you can have a good start on your career. Many F-1 visa OPT Registered Nurses want to continue working and stay in the U.S. permanently.
While working on F-1/OPT status on your EAD your employer can put in an application to sponsor your green card by filing an I-140 petition directly with USCIS once they have obtained a Prevailing Wage Determination from the Department of Labor. The sooner they do this, the better. Depending on the country you are originally from, there can be significant delays. Here is a brief summary of the process and steps that need to be taken by your employer:
- Apply for a labor certification from the US Department of Labor. The filing of a labor certification demonstrates that the firm is not offering American jobs to foreign people.
- File Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers). This is to determine if you, as a green card candidate, satisfy the job requirements. It is also the responsibility of the employer to demonstrate that they can pay you the appropriate salary for the employment.
- Submit Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status): This I-485 form is used to change the status of an applicant. This permits a change from F-1 OPT status. The applicant obtains a visa number and priority date following submission. You may wait for the process in hopes of obtaining a green card as long as the priority date falls within the OPT period. You may legally transfer from OPT to green card status with this form.
As long as you have not been unemployed for 90 days of your post-completion OPT there is a 60-day grace period following the completion of your OPT. This grace period is meant to give you time to prepare for your departure from the U.S. Unless you have successfully adjusted your status to a different type of visa or have enrolled in an approved graduate program, you will be required to leave the U.S. by the end of your grace period. You do not want to overstay the time allowed to you. If you do, you may be subject to deportation and removal proceedings. You may also be barred from returning to the U.S. for several years or permanently, depending on how long you remained in the U.S. beyond the expiration of your F-1 visa.
At All Med Search, we are committed to guiding you through the complexity of starting your nursing career in the United States. We understand the nuances of the OPT process and are here to support you every step of the way.
For more information and personalized assistance, reach out to us, and let’s pave the way for your successful career in U.S. healthcare. Jobs@AllMedSearch.com | 858-509-1464