• Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)

    OPT provides one year of employment authorization in your field of study. It may take up to 3 months for your application to be processed. You will want to consider applying early. You may apply up to 90 days before your completion date and within the 60 day grace period.  

    Regardless of your physical location within the U.S., during the time you are authorized for post-completion OPT, UWA continues to have responsibility for assisting you. UWA will also continue to report information to SEVIS that is required for you to maintain lawful status

    F-1 OPT regulations require students on post-completion Optional Practical Training to report by email to UWA International Programs the name and address of your first OPT employer, along with the start date of your employment. The reporting must be done immediately upon securing a job. Any change in that employer’s name and address must later be reported.

    Additionally, the following information must be reported when you:

    • Do not use OPT and depart the U.S. to return home or to a third country
    • End an appropriate OPT activity
    • Change from one OPT activity to a different OPT activity
    • Change your OPT worksite
    • Change your residence address
    • Change your name
    • Are unemployed
    • Are unemployed for more than the maximum allowed for your opt situation
    • Change your immigration status while in the U.S.

    IMPORTANT: The 12-month work authorization period is based on the day your OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) indicates you may begin work, NOT BEFORE.

    You must begin counting days unemployed from the day your OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) indicates you may begin work. If you are not employed on that day, you will count that as one day unemployed and count each day after as a day unemployed until you receive a job. You must find a job that qualifies for OPT and begin work in that job within 90 calendar days of the start date or you will not be in lawful F-1 status.

    If at any time during the 12-month work authorization period, the number of days of unemployment ever reaches 90 calendar days, the regulations indicate that you will not be considered to be in lawful F-1 status and will therefore not be eligible to work on OPT even if you later find a job. You need to contact UWA International Programs anytime you are unemployed and believe you may exceed your unemployment limit.

    F-1 regulations consider you to be unemployed if you are not engaged in an appropriate OPT activity for at least 20 hours per week. If you are engaged in an appropriate activity, you of course don’t have to count weekends or other days off for vacation or illness as days unemployed. But if you’re not engaged in an appropriate OPT activity, each day counts as a day you’re unemployed, including weekends and holidays.

    Employment or other appropriate OPT “activity” includes “work” in an unpaid internship, or volunteering for an unpaid position. You can “work” for one or more businesses, companies, organizations, or agencies simultaneously. You can have a series of OPT “jobs” with different businesses, organizations, or agencies throughout your authorized OPT. You can even be self-employed and perform work for others on a contractual basis. NOTE: You are authorized to engage in an appropriate OPT activity in your field of study.

    NOTE: SEVP, the Homeland Security agency that maintains F-1 visa student records, highly recommends that for each job you maintain evidence of (1) the position held, (2) proof of the duration of that position, (3) the job title, (4) contact information of your supervisor or manager, and (5) a description of the work. This same evidence could also be used to establish that the limit on unemployment has not been exceeded.

    If it is not clear from the job description that the work is related to your degree, SEVP highly recommends that you obtain a signed letter from your supervisor or manager or the employer’s hiring official stating how your degree is related to the work performed.

    Travel outside of the U.S. during post-completion OPT
    After USCIS has issued an EAD card for post-completion OPT, in order to have the best chance of re-entering the U.S. without problems, you should be sure you have the following documents:

    • Passport (valid for six months after you plan to re-enter the U.S)
    • Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport (The visa stamp requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens.)
    • I-20 (with a valid DSO signature for reentry, that is no older than six months, on page 3 of your OPT I-20)
    • EAD card
    • Your job offer letter or proof of employment (evidence that you have a job in the US or you have a job offer)
    • Suggested: Recent bank statements which show that you have funding to support yourself in the US while on OPT.

    For more information, see U.S. Department of Homeland Security FAQ for Travel.

    *The Department of Homeland Security has issued a 36-page Policy Guidance 1004-03 – Update to Optional Practical Training for the F-1 OPT changes that became effective April 8, 2008. The updated Policy Guidance is available at http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/opt_policy_guidance_042010.pdf.