If you are interested in working in your field of study after completing your academic program, you will need to apply for employment authorization.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides one year of employment authorization in your field of study. Your application must be submitted and arrive at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 60 days of your program completion date (the final day of your final quarter); however, you are encouraged to apply much earlier. Due to slow processing times, we recommend applying approximately three months in advance. For more information about eligibility requirements and how to apply, see Optional Practical Training.
Academic Training provides an opportunity for employment in your field of study. The training must begin within 30 days after completion of studies - the last academic calendar day of your final quarter. If you have a training opportunity, you will need to coordinate authorization with your J program sponsor before the end of your academic program. For more information about eligibility requirements and how to apply, see Employment Options for J-1 Students.
Your on-campus work eligibility ends the last day of your final quarter. While the UW allows student hourly workers to continue employment for one quarter following graduation, this option does not apply to international students. Exception: you may be able to continue working if you have been authorized for OPT if the EAD start date immediately follows the quarter end date and the position is in your field of study (a requirement for OPT employment authorization).
Grace Period and Travel
If you do not apply for OPT, you have a 60-day grace period after the last day of your final quarter. Within this 60-day period you have the following options:
- Depart the U.S. Once you leave the U.S. (including trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies you are not eligible to re-enter with your current I-20. The grace period is meant for travel within the states and preparation to depart the U.S.
- Request a new I-20 if you will continue at the UW in a new degree program. If you are an undergraduate and will begin graduate studies, your new I-20 will be issued by Graduate Admissions.
- If you are moving from a Master's to a PhD program, you must request a Change of Level I-20 from ISS.
- Transfer your SEVIS record to a new school.
- Apply to change status to another visa category.
If you do not apply for Academic Training, you have a 30-day grace period after the last day of your final quarter. Within this 30-day period you have the following options:
- Depart the U.S. Please note that once you leave the U.S. (including trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies you are not eligible to re-enter with your current DS-2019. The grace period is meant for travel within the U.S. and preparation to depart the U.S.
- Apply to change status to another visa category.
Changing Schools? Transfer Procedures
If you have secured admission to a new school you must contact your ISS adviser to coordinate the transfer of your SEVIS record.
This request must be made before the end of the 60-day grace period.
Please coordinate your transfer with your current program sponsor before the end of your academic program.
If you are registered for a future quarter, don't forget to withdraw and fulfill any financial obligations with the university before you transfer to your new school or leave the U.S. Note the tuition forfeiture and refund policies posted by Student Fiscal Services.
It is important that you maintain medical insurance coverage after you graduate, as medical expenses in the U.S. can be very costly. Depending on whether you have purchased the annual or quarterly coverage through the UW's student plan you may be covered for a limited period beyond your final quarter. For more information click here: UW Student Health Insurance Plan.
You should research individual plans through companies that insure international students in the U.S.
While working under OPT, you may receive insurance through your employer; however, it is very common to have a gap in insurance coverage between the student plan's end date and potential coverage through an employer.
It is a regulatory requirement that you maintain insurance coverage for the duration of your stay.
Graduation, Commencement, and Diplomas
Specific steps must be taken to apply for graduation, participate in the Commencement Ceremony, and ensure that your diploma will be mailed to the correct address. Visit the Office of the Registrar's Graduation, Commencement & Diplomas information page for more details.
Inviting Family Members to Visit the U.S.
As graduation approaches, you may want to invite your parents or other family members to celebrate commencement with you. Here are some suggestions to help them apply for a visitor's visa (B-2) at a US consulate or embassy in their home country.
To facilitate their visa interview process you should do the following:
- Write a letter of invitation. Include the purpose of the visit, your relationship to the individuals, a statement of your status here, itinerary details and the length of time they will be visiting (usually less than three months). It is best to emphasize the temporary nature of the invitation and to demonstrate their intention to return to their home country following the visit. If you will provide their financial support while they are here, include that information as well.
- Include an Enrollment Verification Letter from the Registration Office in 225 Schmitz Hall to confirm your student status. Graduate students who hold an RA/TA appointment may want to also attach a departmental funding letter.
- Provide details of the Commencement Ceremony.
- For additional information about U.S. consulate/embassy locations and application procedures, review the U.S. Department of State visa information.
Providing your family members with this documentation may improve their chances of obtaining a visa; however, there is no guarantee a visa will be issued. The success of their request for a visa lies in their ability to prove that they have no intention of staying permanently in the U.S.
Please note that ISS advisers are unable to write letter of invitation for your family members.