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International Students (2) – How to get an OPT for summer internships!


International Students (2) – How to get a OPT VISA for summer internships!

As I mentioned in my previous post I’m an international student who is currently a junior majoring in economics, and working two internships in finance during this semester. However, like many of my peers, I’ve had to prepare for the dreaded OPT (Optional Practical Training) certificate in order to get a summer internship.

In this post I intend to discuss limitations on a regular F-1 Visa when it comes to working outside of campus, outside of the regular semester, how to obtain what is call an OPT, and which type of OPT to apply for.

The Different Types of OPT’s

So to start of lets discuss what kind of different OPT’s there are, more specifically the two different kinds.

Pre-Completion OPT:

This is the kind of OPT that most of you international students will be applying for. This particular certificate are for people who are currently pursuing a degree and would like to acquire work authorization to do work in the field related to their study. This work may be part-time during the academic quarters and full-time during vacations.

Post-Completion OPT:

I won’t focus on this type of OPT, as it does not really concern my target audience. But I will say that this is for people who have completed their degree.

Useful Information about the Pre-Completion OPT

As I’ve recently found out, in my efforts to landing a summer internship for the summer of 2014, the application process is quite lengthy and it may actually take up to 12 weeks before the process is complete and you’re allowed to work. However, you are allowed to apply for this OPT without a job offer.

Now, first and foremost there are three requirements to be eligible for this kind of OPT.

  1. You must be a registered student in F-1 status physically in the United States at the time of application
  2. You must have been enrolled in lawful student status on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year
  3. You must not have used twelve months or more of full-time curricular practical training

Furthermore, please notice that obtaining authorization for OPT is a two-step process. Your first step in obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is to receive a recommendation for OPT from the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) and then authorization for employment from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The ISSO cannot authorize OPT—only USCIS can do so by issuing you an EAD.

The Actual Application Process

Step 1 – Dealing with your schools international students’ office

The first step is to complete and print the I-765 Form which can be found here (http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-765.pdf). This form basically makes you submit general information such as name, address, date of birth, and what kind of VISA you currently hold – it’s not hard people, just read carefully.

The second step is to complete page 1 of the OPT Recommendation Request Form which should be available through your international students office’s website, and then physically bring the form to said office.

Now, you’ve gathered up the required forms and it’s time to head off to your schools international students office. But wait! There are a few more things you need to bring with you, more specifically:

  1. Your current I-20 and all previously issued I-20’s
  2. Passport
  3. I-94 card (white card usually stapled in passport or printed from the electronic I-94 web site at http:www.cbp.gov/I94 if your most recent entry was on or after May 1, 2013)
  4. I-765 Form
  5. OPT Recommendation Request Form(s)

Once your schools international students office has finished reviewing your application, and making sure you are eligible, they will mail you a new I-20 with a OPT recommendation attached.

Step 2 – Mailing your OPT to the USCIS

You finally have your brand new I-20 with a OPT recommendation, but the pain does not stop here dear sirs. Now it’s time to mail the whole thing to the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Below I will provide 5 separate steps for successfully going through this process.

  1. Sign and date the new I-20! (section 11) This sounds obvious but many OPT applicants have had their applications returned for an unsigned I-20 and/or an unsigned check.
  2. Photocopy the entire application before you send it so that you have a complete copy for your records.
  3. Send your application to the USCIS by certified mail, return receipt requested or by a courier service such as FedEx so you have proof that your application was timely in the event that the application is lost.
  4. Send your application quickly as it must be received by the USCIS Service Center within 30 days of the date of the OPT recommendation.

The location you mail your application to differs depending on what state you live in, directions can be found here (http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-765instr.pdf). As I previously mentioned the USCIS can take from 6 to 12 weeks, or more, to process this application, so get it in as fast as possible!

Closing Notes

I hope this article is useful to some, although the audience is somewhat limited, as I found it very frustrating going through this process.

Please give me feedback on my post, share your thoughts, flame away!



Summer Internship Interviews – An Interviewers Perspective

Hey readers, check out this amazing post for some advice on how to successfully interview for summer internships in the financial services industry. In the article a recruiter offers advice on how to nail the interview and what not to do.

Check out ther article here:


International Students – How to shine in internship interviews!

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My Background

In the fall of 2011 I decided to attend College in the U.S., and leaving my Scandinavian country. I began my college career at a City College in the U.S. with no idea of what I wanted to do in the future, but that I wanted to major in Economics. Through research, and countless hours spent reading WallStreetOasis, I soon figured out that I wanted to work in the financial services industry in New York. With this realization came the added anxiety of realizing the amount of work and perseverance that the goal would require.

In the interest of keeping this part short, I’ll try to sum my initial experiences up. I spent two years at my Community College, got a high GPA, involved myself in relevant extra-curricular activities on campus, and stocked up on Economics, Accounting, Finance, and Business classes.

I eventually transferred to an “Ivy League” school as an Economics major in the fall of 2013 and I’m now attempting to break into the Finance industry. I managed to get an unpaid internship at a capital placement and advisory firm in NY, and I’m now trying to rack up some relevant internship experiences before I graduate.

How to benefit from an international background

Through this article I intend to focus on how to efficiently utilize your background while interviewing for internships, by displaying a certain element that I believe is highly valued by recruiters.

While interviewing for summer/semester internships, two questions frequently appeared in all my interviews, more specifically, “Tell me about yourself” and “Tell me about a time when you had to take a risk”. These questions might appear informal and trivial at first, yet this provides you with the opportunity to “hook” your interviewer and display that you are a person that possesses the specific characteristics they are looking for.

As an International Student you have something to offer that sets you apart from your competition; the story of how you decided to leave your comfort zone and brave the unknown by moving to another country. In answering this question, I suggest that you attempt to highlight what I like to call “Thoughtful Risk-Taking”

Thoughtful Risk-Taking

By “Thoughtful Risk-Taking” I refer to how you weighed the pros and cons of attending College in the U.S. You want to highlight that you considered the risks and benefits you run by leaving your country, a trait which recruiters has actually praised in my past interviews.

For example, the risks might include that you could have a hard time developing a social network, encounter cultural differences, not liking life in the U.S., and running the risk of feeling alienated. However, you need to clearly articulate that you believe that the benefits outweighed the perceived risks.

Some possible benefits you can name are the possibility of meeting new and interesting people, acquiring a quality education, grow as a person by forcing yourself to face an unfamiliar situation, and having the opportunity to work in the U.S.

By clearly demonstrating your ability to practice “Thoughtful Risk-Taking” you are implicitly suggesting that you have a highly developed sense of “Critical Thinking”, something that appears to be key in most finance careers in my view.

It suggests that you evaluated your decision to:

  1. Study in the U.S
  2. Attend your current school
  3. Choose your particular major
  4. Seek a career in the financial services industry
  5. Apply for an internship at this specific company

Most importantly, by displaying that you practice “Thoughtful Risk-Taking”, you show the recruiter that you are committed to your choices despite the perceived risks. It tells him or her that you dont make decision based on a whim but rather that you carefully analyze your choices.

I genuinely believe that displaying this trait greatly benefited me while interviewing, and that it was one of the underlying principles that granted me my current internship.

My Blog

Through this blog, I intend to create a series of posts aimed at giving advice to International Students who share my interest in finance. I’ll give my view on how to benefit from an International background in recruiting/interviewing and tips on how I have been able to succeed despite starting out without any connections in the U.S., coming from a City College, and having no relevant finance experience.

Although this blog will be focused on international students in the U.S., the content may very well benefit those studying outside of the U.S.