F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- Student has been enrolled in the program for at least one academic year;
- The temporary employment must be directly related to the major area of study;
- The student may not begin employment until the date indicated on his or her employment authorization document (Form I-766 or Form 688B)
- The student may apply for pre-completion OPT up to 90 days prior to completion of first full academic year of study, provided the period of employment will not begin until the completion of the full academic year; or prior to the completion of the course of study;
- The student may apply for post-completion OPT up to 90 days prior to the program completion date and within the 60-day grace period following the program completion. Note: it is advisable not to wait until the program completion date to file for post-completion OPT.
- Employment may be authorized during the student’s annual vacation or at other times when school is not in session if the student is currently enrolled and is eligible for registration and intends to register for the next term; or
- While school is in session provided that practical training does not exceed 20 hours a week, or
- After completion of the course of study;
- The student must complete all practical training within a 14-month period following the completion of study;
- Students who receive one year or more of full-time curricular practical training (CPT) are not eligible for post-completion practical training (OPT)
- Part-time OPT authorized during the academic program is counted against the 12-month maximum at a rate of 50%
- A job offer is not currently required to apply for OPT. However, 90+ days of unemployment (from your EAD start date) will result in the loss of your F-1 status.
How to Apply for OPT
OPT Timeline Information will provide general guidelines on when you can and should apply for post-completion OPT. You may use the OPT Timeline Worksheet to calculate when you wish to apply. You may bring the worksheet to your OPT appointment if you have questions about your proposed start date.
- The faculty advisor (chair of graduate committee) must provide a memo to the International Student Advisor stating that you (the student) are making satisfactory progress toward completion of the degree program and that the expected date of completion of the degree program is mo/day/year. If you are defending a thesis or project, the anticipated defense date must be included.
- Graduate students: Complete the Graduate School OPT Request Form for the OPT Letter for our office verifying your status. The Graduate School staff will deliver the letter and a copy of your advancement to candidacy directly to the International Advisor. If you have not completed your advancement to candidacy the Graduate School cannot process your OPT letter.
- Undergraduate students: provide a copy of your degree progress report in DegreeWorks available through your UAOnline account.
- The student completes the Form I-765 – only one copy is necessary. Instructions for Form I-765 Type (or complete online and print) the information if possible. If you complete the form by hand, make sure each letter is very clear so that your employment authorization has the correct spelling. Sign and date it. Make sure that you check the box requesting employment authorization. The address entered on the form is where all correspondence and the EAD card will be mailed. You may use the International Programs & Initiatives address if you are not certain that your address will remain valid until you receive your EAD.
- Complete the Form I-538, Section I. Sign and date it. If you have had previous OPT (optional practical training) or CPT (curricular practical training), list the dates in the box provided. We will need copies of any previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD), front and back, to submit with this application.
- On page 5 of the I-765 instruction booklet, Part 3, you need two photos. See the supplemental instructions. The photos are required to be full-frontal/passport photos. You may obtain the photos at Fairbanks Fast Foto located in Shoppers Forum, Wal Mart and Fred Meyers.
- A post office money order, U.S. check or U.S. bank check for $410.00 payable to “US Department of Homeland Security.” (The $410 fee is current as of October, 2017.)
- Schedule an OPT appointment with the International Advisor. Bring your immigration documents (passport, I-94, all I-20s you have ever received , etc.) with the application materials to the appointment. The appointment will take between 30 and 45 minutes.
- After all documents are reviewed and approved, a new SEVIS Form I-20 will be processed requesting the OPT. After you sign the new SEVIS Form I-20, one original will be submitted with the application.
Form I-765 may be completed and printed from the website, select "forms." The form I-538 may be completed from the link provided above.
An application packet with the above documentation as well as copies of your passport ID page, visa, all I-20's and I-94 will be compiled and submitted to USCIS. A complete copy will be made for you and can be picked up from International Programs & Initiatives after the receipt notice has been received. The advisor will notify you by email when the copy is ready.
You are encouraged to use the International Programs & Initiatives address on all of the application documents as the Post Office is not authorized to forward official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) mail. The I-765 form has the address pre-filled.
c/o UAF International Programs
Fairbanks , AK 99775
This application must be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The adjudication process may take three to four months, so application should be made early in the final semester. You will receive a Receipt (Form I-797, Notice of Action), from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approximately 1-2 weeks after the Service receives the application packet. The application file number (Receipt Number) is in the upper left-hand of the form. Please make sure that the International Advisor has a copy of the Notice for your file. If we have to inquire about the status of your application we must have this file number. If you have not received the receipt within 4 weeks, please contact the International Advisor so an inquiry can be made.
Student Reporting Requirements While on OPT
The following must be reported to UAF OIPI
- Initial US employer and work address, as soon as possible, with employment start date
- Any change in US employer and work address within 10 days of the change
- Any change in your personal address within 10 days
- Start and end dates of any period of unemployment
- 90+ days of unemployment (from your EAD start date) will result in the loss of your F-1 status.
Guidelines and reminders for students on OPT are included. If you have questions or concerns, contact the international advisors.
Important Things to Know About OPT
- OPT authorization is available for a maximum of 12 months which may be utilized during or following an academic level. Part-time OPT is pro-rated at 50% towards the total OPT authorization of 12 months.
- It is advisable to apply for the total amount of OPT for which you are authorized (12 months if you have had no previous full or part-time OPT authorization). You may cancel any remaining OPT if you begin another academic program or return home. If you apply for less than the full amount and have the opportunity to work for the entire year, you must apply for the remaining OPT authorization. This is the same process as the original application. The fee must also be paid again in full.
- Transferring to another institution or beginning a new academic program at UAF cancels remaining OPT authorization.
- It is not advisable to leave the U.S. while the OPT application is pending. You should not leave until you have received a written employment offer. If you leave without obtaining employment first, you may be denied U.S. reentry.
- You cannot start working until you receive the “Employee Authorization Card” (EAD). It can take 60-120 days (2 to 4 months) for processing and receipt through the U.S. mail. NOTE: Employment authorization for graduate students ends no later than 2 months from the date of thesis or project defense. This includes R. A. and T. A. work assignments unless both the OPT card and OPT employment start date have arrived. See the UAF graduate program completion policy to determine your actual program completion date.
- Although you have been authorized employment under OPT, you are still a UAF-sponsored F-1 student for immigration purposes. You are still required to report address changes to UAF International Programs & Initiatives within ten days of any change.
- If you plan to leave the U.S. after receiving your EAD, you must still have your I-20 signed for travel by one of the DSOs in International Programs & Initiatives. If you are working outside of the Fairbanks area, remember to include mailing time to and from UAF when you are planning to have your I-20 signed.
You may apply for up to 12 months of OPT to be worked within 14 months of your program completion.