OPT & allied health insurance – overview and importance

October 25, 2019


F1 Visa, Health Insurance, OPT, Optional Practical Training

What is OPT?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows international students with student visa (generally F-1) to take up full-time or part-time jobs in the US during or immediately after completion of their higher studies.

If permitted by United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, they can work for a period of 12 months despite not having H1B visa. However, students who get work under OPT do not always get covered under employer’s group insurance scheme.

What types of OPT options do students have?

A student wanting to take Optional Practical Training has two following options:

Pre-completion OPT – A student can apply for OPT permit even while his degree course is ongoing. However, to get an OPT, the student must show that he or she has completed one academic year in the college or university.

  • – The Pre-completion OPT allows students to do internships or part time jobs.
  • – They, however, are allowed to work for not more than 20 hours/week under OPT.
  • – Students can use OPT to do paid internships or even do small jobs after taking requisite permission from concerned authorities.

Post-completion OPT – After completing his/her degree, a student can apply for OPT. It gives student a 12 month period (recently extended to 17 months only for STEM course students).- A student can take up full-time jobs after getting permission from authorities for OPT.

  • – They can work with student visa and do not require H1B visa till the time they are in OPT.
  • – Student can use this time to carry out their research or internship or even take up jobs that would provide them practical experience before they formally enter the job market in US.

Note of Caution: During “pre-completion OPT”, students are expected not to miss their classes or course related work for job. They can only work full-time when their college or university is not in session. Also, certain jobs are beyond the purview of OPT. Students are advised to first find out the legal validity of their work with local authorities before take up any job.

Importance of health insurance during OPT

In a country like the US where the cost of treatment is very high, a person without a proper health insurance protection faces huge financial risk in the event of major medical expenditure. Students, who earlier purchased university sponsored student health insurance plans during their course period, do not qualify for the same after graduating or completing their course.

Benefits of health insurance during OPT

  • • Their medical expenditures are covered by health insurance provider and hence, they do not face financial hardships.
  • • The previously purchased student health insurance plan may no longer cover the students once their course is over. Private health insurance therefore provides health cover after degree course is over.
  • • It is not mandatory for them to either buy costly university sponsored health insurance or buy external insurance plan in accordance to concerned requirements laid by University. This allows them to purchase cheaper plans as per their individual medical needs.
  • • They do not face the risk of financial default which could undermine or affect their chances of H1B visa or job prospects in future.
  • • By buying cost effective health insurance plans, they can save money on healthcare expenditure and use the savings to pay a part of their education loan.

Let’s Wrap Up!

Students who wish to work in the US should make use of OPT facility to get industry experience so as to prepare themselves for a long career ahead. In addition to that, they should also not take healthcare related risks lightly. Even if the cost of health insurance comes out to be higher than those available as student, they are still very cheap as compared to the cost of treatment in the US.

Disclaimer: The information provided above is based on personal research and understanding of the writer. Readers are advised to exercise discretion while taking any decision. Student Cover will not be held liable for any misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the facts or information given in the article above.

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