Northeast Ohio is home to 28 colleges and universities with a total student enrollment of more than 210,000 students. As part of its mission to increase the flow of population into the region, Global Cleveland works to inform international students about immigration options and engage them in life beyond their school. For this reason it is critical that students have the most comprehensive, To get students up-to-date on visa requirements, Global Cleveland asked Erin Brown Farro, a Cleveland-area attorney specializing in immigration law, to provide tips on the latest U.S. immigration information.

Brown Farro has found that when it comes to visas, students are often more knowledgeable than prospective employers. For this reason, it is critically important that students familiarize themselves with the processes and application/extension dates. Read on for a brief overview of student and employment visa information, and be sure to check the United States government’s student and employment visa website for detailed information on each visa type.


Optional practical training (OPT) is employment for the purpose of practical training, and must be related to a student’s course of study.

H1B visas require a bachelor’s degree, and are available for occupations that require the practical application of specialized knowledge. The duration of the visa is two three-year terms. For students that wish to continue on to advanced degrees, the F1 student visa is also available.

The J visa is valid for 12-18 months and allows exchange visitors to teach, study, research, consult, and receive training and education. During this period the visitor may engage in employment and receive compensation, pending program approval. Typically, the J visa is for interns, and the program requires a foreign degree.

L visas are designated for intra-company transferees. This program requires individuals to be employed by an affiliate of a US-based company for at least one year, and is open to managers, executives, and those with specialized knowledge.

Individuals that possess extraordinary ability and are nationally or internationally recognized for their expertise may apply for O visas. O visas require a sponsor and job offer, and last for three years, plus extensions.

Canadian and Mexican professionals are eligible to apply for TN visas, which are awarded to individuals that engage in professional business activities in accordance with NAFTA. A bachelor’s degree or professional credentials are required, and the visas last for three years, plus extensions. Similarly, E visas are available to investors and traders from treaty countries.