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Cornell University

U.S. Employment Visa Basics

Here are some basic U.S. employment visa terms and statuses. It is important to know your visa status and what you can and cannot do under your status. If you have any questions about your status, meet with an Immigration Advisor in the Office of Global Learning. We strongly recommend not googling answers for your questions nor asking your friends who are in similar situations, as visa status and complications can be case-by-case based.

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Off-campus work in your field of study that is either required for your degree or an integral part of your curriculum (e.g. for course credit) (F1-Visa students).

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT). Is a benefit and extension of F-1 student status. It lets you apply what you learned in your degree program to off-campus work in your field of study.
    • (OPT STEM Extension). Gives you an additional 24 months of OPT authorization if you have a U.S. degree in an approved science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field.
  • Cap-Gap OPT Extension. Is the period of time between the expiration of your OPT and the October 1 start of an H-1B petition.
  • H1B Visa. Non-immigrant work visa for professional occupations in your specialized fields.
  • O-1 Visa. Visa option for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement.
  • L-1 Visa. Visa option for an intracompany transferee, executive, or manager.

There are other alternatives to H-1B for international students from specific countries. For example: 

  • TN. For Canadian and Mexican citizens.

  • E-3. For Australian citizens.
  • H-1B1. For Chilean and Singaporian citizens.

Consult the Office of Global Learning or an immigration law expert for specific details.