How can students work or launch a startup while maintaining their immigration status? • TechCrunch


Here’s another version From “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working for tech companies.

“Your questions are vital to spreading the knowledge that allows people around the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” Sophie Alcorn, an immigration attorney in Silicon Valley. “Whether you work in people operations, are a founder, or are looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I want to answer your questions in my next column.

TechCrunch+ members get access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; Use the promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription at 50% off..

Dear Sophie,

I am studying bioinformatics at a university in the United States

What options do I have to work before and after graduation on my student visa? Do any of these options allow me to launch my startup?

Desire to work

Dear willing,

I salute your enthusiasm to go to work! The opportunity to work and get training in your field is one of the attractions of studying in the complex US immigration rules and regulations for international students – not to mention processing delays and time limits – it can make things difficult, but all you need is a little planning to overcome those challenges!

Your ability to work in your field of study – and for how long – depends on the type of student visa you hold:

  • F-1 student visa.
  • J-1 educational and cultural exchange visa.
  • M-1 student visa.

F-1 offers the most flexible work options

Composite image of immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background featuring the TechCrunch logo.

Image credits: Joanna Boniak / Sophie Alcorn (Opens in a new window)

The F-1 student visa provides the most options for employment before and after graduation. Two types of training programs are available to most international students who hold an F-1 visa, which make them eligible to work in their field of study:

  • Systematic Practical Training (CPT) is available to students at some colleges and universities.
  • An Optional Practical Training (OPT) is available either before or after graduation.
  • STEM OPT is a 24-month extension of OPT available to students who have graduated with an extension STEM degree Designated by the US Department of Homeland Security.

Work under CPT

If CPT is available at a university or college, students with F-1 visas are eligible if they have been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year and have not yet graduated. Some graduate programs allow or even require students to apply for a CPT at the beginning of the program.

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