When applying for a College or University, what should I look for in regards to how it will affect my future immigration filings?
If you intend to use your degree or advanced degree as the basis to gain work authorization or apply for an employment-based green card, it is important that the school is accredited by a recognized accreditation agency or association. The Department of Education’s website provides users with this information and is a good resource. For H1b purposes, an advanced degree from a for-profit, accredited program does not count towards the H1b Master’s quota. Curiously, the definition that the USCIS uses for the H1b Master’s quota is not the same as what they use for determining eligibility for Employment Based preference categories.
If I am enrolled in a program that offers Curricular Practical Training (CPT), is there anything I need to be aware of?
Yes, we will be addressing this issue in our next article in more detail. Right now, the USCIS is looking very closely at programs that issue CPT and those who receive/utilize it. Some programs issue it very quickly and without proper guidance which leads to problems for that student when they change status as they have not been maintaining proper status during that time. We will go into more detail in the article, but if a student is unsure of whether they are maintaining proper CPT status, they should write or email their Designated School Official to ensure they are in compliance.
What is the advantage of going to school as an F1?
The main advantage of F1 status is having the ability to engage in Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). By having F1 status, a student can engage in work authorization that is permitted by either CPT or OPT. You may, however, attend as an H-4 or L2, in which case you will not be eligible for practical training, but you also don’t have to maintain a full course load. H and L nonimmigrants may also be eligible for in-state tuition, in many cases.
Is it true that I do not have to pay taxes if I work on my CPT or OPT?
Yes and no. You are required to pay certain taxes, but CPT and OPT employees are considered students by the IRS and therefore, they are exempt from FICA taxes as are their employers.
If I am here in another status and I want to switch to F1 status, do I need to get an F1 visa and re-enter?
No, while that is an option, you could also file a change of status here in the United States. The USCIS has recently expanded their ELIS Online filing system to include any Change of Status applications to F1 and the results have been good. ELIS filings are taking about 2 months and while the application is a bit more labor intensive, it is very efficient and manageable.