Applying for OPT

It typically takes at least 3-5 months for OPT to be approved, so we recommend starting the process early. 

Step 1: Attend an OPT Session
OPT schedule for fall, all sessions in Reves Center Conference room: Friday, September 20, 3-4pm; Monday, September 30, 12-1pm; Tuesday, October 1, 3:30-4:30pm; Friday, October 18, 2-3pm
Fall 2019 OPT Sessions
Date Time Session Location
Friday, September 20 3-4 pm OPT  Reves Conference Room
Monday, September 30 12-1 pm OPT Reves Conference Room
Tuesday, October 1 3:30-4:30 pm OPT Reves Conference Room
Friday, October 18 2-3 pm OPT  Reves Conference Room
Step 2: Complete the Reves OPT e-form
  • Access the form via iStart.
  • Log into iStart with your W&M ID and password (click on blue login button).
  • Expand the F-1 Practical Training menu on the left.
  • Click on Optional Practical Training Application. Complete required fields and submit.
Step 3: Make an OPT Appointment with a Reves Advisor
  • Call the Reves Center (757-221-3590) for an appointment with Emily or Zabrina. Do not schedule by email.
  • Before your appointment, you must complete all forms, make photocopies, and obtain photos. Bring all items listed on the OPT packet checklist (page 1).
  • Download the OPT packet and save a copy of your completed OPT forms, so you can make edits following your appointment if needed. In most cases, the fillable form will only work with the most updated version of Adobe Reader. If you complete the forms in a browser prior to downloading, you will most likely be unable to save your responses.
  • At your appointment, your advisor will review your application, and issue a new OPT I-20.
Step 4: Mail Your OPT Materials
  • Following your appointment, you will mail your application to USCIS (Immigration). 
  • Your OPT application must arrive at USCIS within 30 days of when we issued your OPT I-20 (60 days if you're applying for a STEM extension). If it arrives late, it may be denied. Worried about timing? Talk with your international advisor.
  • About 2-3 weeks after USCIS receives your application, they will mail you a Receipt Notice. On the Receipt Notice there is a Receipt Number (like a tracking number for your application/case). With it, you can check your case status online.
Step 5: Your OPT is Approved
  • It usually takes at least 3-5 months for your OPT application to be approved. For current processing times, see the USCIS website; select the I-765 form. Most W&M students' forms are processed by the Potomac Service Center.
  • Once your OPT is approved, USCIS will create and send you your Employment Authorization Document (i.e., OPT card).
  • You may begin working when you receive the card and reach the start date on the card.