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The United States makes visas are available to students (F-1 and M visas) and participants in exchange programs (J-1 visas). Varying rights and obligations attach to the different types of visas. For instance, recipients of certain types of student visas are allowed to work for a certain period of time while recipients of certain exchange visas are required to return to their country of origin for two years after their visa expires. For this reason, it is important that each visa applicant carefully consider his / her visa options.



F-1 visa recipients may apply to work in the United States in forms of employment which provide practical training. There are two forms of practical training available to F-visa recipients: curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT).


Employment pursuant to CPT authorization must relate to a student’s major field of study and be an integral part of the student’s study program curriculum. Internships and cooperative education programs are examples of CPT-eligible forms of employment. There is no limit on the amount of CPT part-time work a student may engage in. However, a student who performs full-time CPT work for 12 months or longer loses eligibility to perform OPT work (see below).


Employment pursuant to OPT authorization is broader and need only relate to a student’s major field of study. A student may apply for 12 months of OPT at each educational level (e.g. 12 months after bachelor’s degree and 12 months after master’s degree). In addition, under certain circumstances, students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields may qualify for an additional 24 months of OPT.

How We Can Help

We help our clients select the type of visa that is appropriate to their circumstances and guide them through the petition process. Upon expiration of student or exchange program visas, we can counsel our clients regarding changes in their visa status. We can also provide services with respect to the CPT and OPT process and waivers of the two-year home stay requirement for J-1 visa holders. In addition to our legal expertise, our language skills in Spanish and Portuguese make us particularly helpful to our Latin American, Spanish, and Portuguese clients.

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