F-1 and J-1 Student Trainees

F-1 student with Optional Practical Training

At the conclusion of a degree program, students in F-1 visa status may be eligible to apply for one year of employment authorization called Optional Practical Training (“OPT”). While the employment may take place on or off-campus in any field related to their degree program, this year of training must be recommended by the international office at the university where the student is graduating, and must be approved by US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Upon approval the trainee receives an Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”), which satisfies requirements for documenting identity and employment eligibility on Form I-9. The student remains in F-1 student status for the duration of OPT and will have a 60-day grace period when it ends.

OPT may be extended for an additional 24 months (for a total of 36 months) if the trainee currently has OPT authorization, has completed a degree in a qualifying science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) field, and has a job or job offer from an E-Verify employer. (The UW participates in the E-Verify program.) STEM OPT employment requires that the trainee complete a Form I-983 Training Plan with signature by the supervisor and undergo yearly evaluation by the supervisor. The supervisor, in turn, must attest (1) that the trainee will not replace a full-time or part-time temporary or permanent U.S. worker and (2) that the terms and conditions of the STEM OPT opportunity, including compensation and benefits, are commensurate with similarly-situated U.S. workers.

Please note that tenure-track employment is fundamentally inconsistent with OPT. If a UW unit is considering offering a tenure-track or permanent position to an F-1 student trainee, that student should be moved to an H-1B as soon as possible. Please contact ISO if you have questions about hiring a trainee for a permanent position.

J-1 student with Academic Training

Graduates in the J-1 “student” category may be eligible for a period of employment authorization at the conclusion of their degree program called “Academic Training.” Academic Training must be authorized in writing by the Responsible Officer (RO) in the international office at the university where the student is graduating. Academic Training applications are not processed through USCIS, nor does the trainee receive an EAD card. The official letter from the RO, along with evidence of valid J-1 status (DS-2019, I-94, and passport) satisfy I-9 employment eligibility requirements. Academic Training may be granted for a period up to 18 months. For postdoctoral training, the overall limit is 36 months.

Transitioning to an employment visa

Optional Practical Training (F-1 student) and Academic Training (J-1 student) provide temporary employment authorization. Before hiring a trainee, consult an advisor to determine whether options exist for the UW to provide visa sponsorship to continue the employment beyond the expiration of the training period.