Travel plans of thousands of Indians have been hit by backlogs for essential categories of US visas including B-1/B-2 visitors visas and H-1B and H-4 work permit visas. However, the good news for Indian students is that, with valid F-1 student visas, traveling back to the US after visiting India or some other nation, is simple and requires no extra visa stamp or in-person visa interviews.
A similar rule applies to students on optional practical training (OPT), which is a type of exercise, often paid, that directly connects with the international student’s program of study in the US. How this affects numerous youthful Indians, who are working on OPT? Is that even if parents are stuck in a visitors’ visa queue and can’t visit the US; the students have the flexibility to plan a vacation in India if they have a valid F-1 visa.
“Students can apply for OPT during their program of study, which is known as pre-completion OPT, or after they finish their program of study, known as post-completion OPT”. A representative of the US embassy in New Delhi told the Times of India.
An in-person visa interview is not required for OPT Status
The procedure to apply for OPT is that students on an F-1 visa should request approval from the assigned school official (DSO) at their college. The DSO suggests the student and exchange visitor information system (SEVIS) by supporting the student’s form I-20, and certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant student status. “The student should then file the form I-765, ‘application for employment authorization and supporting documents with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Whenever approved, USCIS will give a form I-766, an employment authorization document. A student can’t start their training until they get the authorization from USCIS,” the US embassy spokesperson said.
The OPT status allows eligible international students and new graduates the opportunity to gain on-the-job learning. That supplements knowledge gained in their academic studies. To participate the in the training opportunities, an international student doesn’t have to change their non-immigrant status. The student should work with their assigned DSO to guarantee eligibility as well as apply for and receive proper authorization. However, all international students who get financial compensation of any kind must apply for a social security number in the US.
The United States has waived Indian Students
An F-1 student with approved OPT may enter the US using their valid F-1 visa whenever. There is no different visa category for OPT. However, even if a student has an approved OPT, they require a valid F-1 visa to enter the US. “In the rare event that an OPT-approved student does not hold a current, valid, visa. They should follow the standard rules to apply for a valid F-1 student visa,” the US embassy representative added.
“Whenever F-1 students need a visa stamped in their passport to have the option to get back to the USA. It’s similar whether they’re effectively in school or on their OPT”. Diya Mathews, the partner, and attorney at law firm Chugh, LLP, told Times of India. She added that though the students on OPT may be working and getting paid. They are technically still on F-1 student visa status.
“OPT is only the work authorization period towards the end of the F-1 status after the coursework is finished. There is no different visa status for OPT,” she added. While most students applying for F-1 visas in India are interviewed before they are granted a visa; because of the ongoing visa processing backlogs in India. A few students are being allowed interview waivers if they have had an earlier US visa. “They can apply for a dropbox appointment which implies they will probably be excluded from in-person visa interviews,” Mathews said.