It typically takes at least 3-5 months for OPT to be approved, so we recommend starting the process early.
Step 1: Review OPT materials
Due to COVID-19 and staff moving to teleworking, we will not be offering in-person sessions. Please refer to the Spring 2020 OPT Slides (pdf). We will be scheduling zoom sessions for Fall 2020.
Step 2: Complete forms and make copies of documents
Prefill and save a copy of your completed OPT forms prior to your appointment, 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
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 upload your OPT application, including supporting documents.
Contact the Reves Center for an OPT appointment. During the COVID-19 crisis, you can contact [[zkwilliams, Zabrina Williams]] for an appointment.
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.