Requirements to obtain OPT

For many Spanish students who have gone to the United States to study, the months of May and June are centered on graduations and celebrations related to the end of their college years and the beginning of their professional lives. This is also a time of doubt for these students, as they have to decide whether they want to continue studying or start working, and in the latter case, whether to work in Spain or stay in the United States. In this post we will tell you about the requirements to stay and work in the USA.

What are the requirements to stay in the U.S. to work?

Once the student visa ends, the U.S. Government offers the opportunity to stay in the country to work thanks to the OPT (Optional Practical Training).

OPT is an employment opportunity, which allows students with an F-1 visa to stay in the country to use the knowledge gained in the degree program. The OPT must be directly related to each student’s major area of study.

OPT may be applied for once a student is enrolled full-time for a full academic year at a college, university, conservatory, or seminary. This allows F-1 visa students to be eligible for a work permit in the United States for up to 12 months and is not required to have received a job offer in order to obtain it.

Students may begin working once they have received their EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card and may not take more than 60 days to choose a start date. OPT work must be a minimum of 20 hours per week and must be completed during the 14 months following the date of completion of the academic program. A new OPT may be applied for if a new academic degree level is completed.

Although OPT lasts 12 months and cannot be extended, students with a university degree related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics may opt for an additional 24-month extension, provided that the person hiring the worker meets certain requirements.

What if I want to continue working in the U.S. but my term has not been extended?

If the OPT term ends and you want to continue working in the United States, another option, although very complicated, is to try to obtain the H-B1 visa, whereby a company “sponsors” a foreign employee for the government. This visa can be renewed every 3 years until 10 years of age. Once this time has passed, the person would be eligible for U.S. citizenship. Obtaining the H-B1 visa is complicated because the hiring company will have to prove that there are no unemployed candidates in the country with the appropriate skills to perform such work, and the worker must have higher education.

Other visas that allow foreigners to stay legally to work in the U.S. are: the O-1 visa for athletes and artists, the B-1 visa for university professors, lecturers and scientists, and the J1 visa.

If you have any questions about job opportunities after obtaining an American certificate, do not hesitate to send us an email to