Student / Exchange Visitor Visas

U.S. study and employment options for the world’s brightest scholars.

We offer comprehensive services for students and exchange visitors interested in pursuing full-time academic or vocational studies through the F-1 (academic) or M (vocational) visa programs. We also assist with the J exchange visitor program administered by the U.S. Department of State.

Common issues we can assist with include obtaining and extending work authorization as a student, finding an exchange program sponsor, applying for a visa at a consulate abroad, facilitating waiver requests, and transitioning into another status.  At ILG we focus on providing clients top-tier service in an expeditious fashion, with a focus on compliance and accuracy. Contact us today to learn more about your student/exchange visitor options.


FAQ Student Visas

What are my options for internship or employment?

F-1 students are eligible to work through Curricular Practical Training, Pre/Post  Completion Optional Practical Training, and STEM Optional Practical Training.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) provides authorized work experience directly related to your field of study. Work can be part-time (20 hours/week) during the school year and full-time during breaks. CPT must be an integral part of your school’s curriculum. 12 months of full-time CPT employment will eliminate eligibility for OPT.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides 12 months of practical work experience in an area related to your field of study. Unlike CPT, you must receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before you can begin working.  OPT may be completed before the end of your academic program (on a part-time basis when school is in session), or after the completion of your academic program, either full-time or part-time. Time used for pre-completion OPT will be deducted from your post-completion period of authorization.

If your degree is in a STEM field, you may be entitled to apply for an additional 24 months of your OPT work authorization. Your employer must be enrolled in the E-Verify program, and you must submit a Form I-983 Training plan outlining the goals of your employment.

May I travel internationally with my EAD if I do not have a job?

No, you should be employed or have a written job offer before exiting and returning to the U.S.

May I travel internationally while my EAD is pending?

Yes, but it is not recommended given that USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence with a deadline to respond while you are abroad. Also, if your EAD has been approved, USCIS will expect that you possess the EAD upon re-entry. If you must travel, you must be able to provide your receipt notice for the pending I-765, an I-20 dated within the last 6 months, and proof of a job offer.

What is cap-gap and do I qualify?

Cap-Gap allows certain students in valid F-1 status or in their 60 day grace period as of April 1st, who have applied for a Change of Status to H-1B, to maintain F-1 status and work authorization (if EAD is valid at time of filing) based on their pending or approved application. If your H-1B petition is selected and approved, your F-1 status and possibly work authorization extends until September 30th. If the petition is not selected, denied, withdrawn, revoked or rejected, or if the change of status request is denied in favor of consular processing, the extension will automatically end and the 60 day grace period will begin at that time or at the program end date, whichever is later.

Can I apply for permanent residency while in F-1 status?

F-1 status is temporary and does not allow dual intent, meaning upon applying for your visa or entry into the U.S. in F-1 status, you must not have the intent to immigrate (pursue permanent residency). Immigrant petitions or applications for adjustment of status, as well as marriage to a permanent resident or U.S. citizen, should not occur within 90 days of your arrival in F-1 status, or USCIS may find that you willfully misrepresented your intent at the time of entry, which could result in a lifetime ban from re-entering the U.S.

When am I considered out of status?

Maintaining status means entering the U.S. to study as per the status of your visa, and following all regulations related to that visa. Failure to maintain status could make subsequent visa applications and adjustment of status applications difficult. 

A violation of status could trigger a finding of unlawful presence.You can begin to accrue unlawful presence in the following scenarios:

  • The day after the F, J or M nonimmigrant no longer pursues the course of study or the authorized activity, or the day after he or she engages in an unauthorized activity;
  • The day after completing the course of study or program, including any authorized practical training plus any authorized grace period (e.g., 60-days after completion of F-1 OPT);
  • The day after the Form I-94 expires, if the F, J or M nonimmigrant was admitted for a date certain; or
  • The day after an immigration judge or, in certain cases, the BIA orders the alien excluded, deported, or removed (whether or not the decision is appealed).

If you accrue more than 180 days of unlawful presence, you may be subject to a 3 year bar from re-entering the U.S. Unlawful presence of more than 1 year can result in a 10 year bar.

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