F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

What is OPT? 
It is off-campus employment authorization.  Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT per academic degree level.  It must be related to the field of study.

Frequently Asked Questions

Regulatory Requirements 

  • OPT authorization is available for a maximum of 12 months which may be utilized during or following an academic level.
  • 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;
  • A job offer is not currently required to apply for OPT.
  • The student may not begin employment until the date indicated on his or her employment authorization document (OPT card);
  • 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.
  • Pre-completion OPT employment may be authorized (1) 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 (2) while school is in session provided that practical training does not exceed 20 hours a week, OR post-completion OPT after completion of the course of study.
  • The student must complete all practical training within a 14-month period following the program completion date;
  • 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 (generally pre-completion OPT) authorized during the academic program is counted against the 12-month maximum at a rate of 50%.
  • 90+ days of unemployment (from your EAD start date) will result in the loss of your F-1 status.
 

How to Apply for OPT

The OPT Timeline Information will provide general guidelines on when you can and should apply for post-completion OPT.  You may bring the timeline to your OPT appointment if you have questions about your proposed start date.  Use the OPT Checklist in preparing your forms and gathering other documents and information needed for the application process.

  • The undergraduate faculty advisor or 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 pre-completion OPT Form I-765 form OR post-completion OPT Form I-765.  The Instructions for Form I-765 are provided for your reference and use.  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 "Initial permission to accept employment." unless you have been approved for OPT before. 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.  The IPI address is entered on the linked form.
  • Complete the OPT Request Confirmation Form.
  • You need to provide two passport-type 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, Fred Meyers and Walgreens.
  • A postal or personal money order, U.S. check or U.S. bank check are acceptable payment methods.  The filing fee is $410.00 payable to “US Department of Homeland Security” 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, copies of any previous OPT EAD cards, etc.) with the application materials to the appointment.  The length of the appointment will depend on how well prepared you are and how many questions you have.
  • After all documents are reviewed and approved, a new SEVIS Form I-20 will be processed requesting the OPT.  You will be informed when the new I-20 is ready for signing and the package is available for shipping.  You are responsible for shipping.  The package must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the I-20 issue date with the OPT endorsement.  If it is received later, the application will automatically be denied.

This application must be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and you must have the OPT card before you can start working. The USCIS process may take three to five months, so application should be made early in your final semester. You should receive a Receipt (Form I-797, Notice of Action), from USCIS 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. If you are not using the IPI address, 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 IPI using the OPT Update form:

  • 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

  • It is advisable to apply for the total amount of post-completion OPT for which you are authorized (12 months if you have had no previous full or part-time OPT authorization).
  • 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.
  • 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 IPI 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 IPI. 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.
 
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