When a student is in a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral program and has completed all course requirements for the degree, he or she is eligible for a 12 month period of OPT or Optional Practical Training. The application process involves obtaining permission from the academic institution and requesting work authorization or an EAD, from United States Citizenship & Immigration Services ("USCIS"). The EAD allows a student to engage in free market employment. A student may also do an internship or have Curricular Practical Training ("CPT"). CPT must be related to the student's course of study.
Consider J Visas
J-1 students are eligible for academic training after graduation. Academic training provides an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge obtained in an academic program to a practical work experience. Doctoral students who obtain a post-doc position may be eligible for academic training. Employment must be authorized by the Responsible Officer at the academic institution.
Consider H-1B Visas
The H-1B visa program is intended to permit US employers to hire the highly educated employees for "specialty occupations" (positions that require at least a Bachelor's Degree in a specialized field). Examples include Research Associates, engineers, accountants, medical personnel, and computer professionals. The period of stay for H-1B holder is 6 years, and an application must be made to USCIS. Extensions beyond six (6) years may be possible under certain circumstances.
Consider O and P Visas
Foreign nationals who have demonstrated extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics may be able to receive an O visa to work in their area of expertise. By way of example, an art school graduate with an exceptional portfolio might be eligible for an O visa. The period of stay for an O visa is 3 years and incremental extensions are available. P visas are available for performing artists and athletes. These visas require applications to USCIS.