Although there are several visa categories for international students in the United States (including J and M categories), the majority of international students enrolled in US colleges or graduate schools are under the F-1 visa program. Under the F-1 visa, students are allowed to apply for work authorization under OPT.
Under an F-1 visa, students can complete their entire degree, and they have certain rights to work while they are on a valid F-1 status.
While there are some conditions where an international student can apply to work under OPT while still in school (“pre-completion OPT”), most international students choose to use their full 12 months of OPT after completing their degree for 12 months (“post-completion OPT”).So as you near graduation (up to 90 days before graduation, in fact), you can apply for OPT, which, if granted, will permit you to work for an employer in the US (subject to all of the rules of OPT). You can apply for a new OPT period for each new degree level you complete — for instance, if you receive a Bachelor’s degree, you can apply for OPT and work for a year, go back to graduate school, then when you complete your Master’s or PhD, you can apply for OPT again and work for another year (many students actually do this).
Need insurance while on OPT? The Student Secure plan is a popular option and can be purchased for as little as 15 days up to a year.