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Applying for OPT

To qualify for OPT, you must have been in F-1 status for at least two semesters, directly prior to graduation. 

An OPT I-20 is required for the OPT application.

Steps to apply for OPT
Step 1: Attend an OPT session
  • Sessions will take place by Zoom and the link will be emailed to the international student listserv before each session; the same Zoom link will be used for each virtual session. Fall 2022 sessions will take place on:
    • Thursday, September 22, 3 - 4 pm
    • Monday, October 3, 3 - 4 pm
    • Tuesday, October 25, 3 - 4 pm
    • Monday, November 14, 11 am - 12 pm 
  • A session explaining the basics of H-1Bs (a common work authorization that some people do after OPT) will be offered on Wednesday, November 16, 3 - 4 pm 
Step 2: Select OPT dates
  • Your OPT start date must begin within 60 days of the program end date on your I-20 and end 12 months after this date. 
  • Refer to the OPT slides for information on selecting dates.
  • You may also contact an ISSP advisor for guidance on selecting your OPT dates.
Step 3: Request OPT I-20
  • Request your OPT I-20 through iStart.
  • Log into iStart with your W&M ID and password.
  • Select F-1 Practical Training and click on OPT I-20 Request.
  • You will be issued an OPT I-20, which will list your desired OPT dates. You must include this in your application. Please review the OPT packet for an application checklist and tips.
  • Your OPT application will be denied if you do not include an OPT I-20 that was issued within the past 30 days. 

Optional appointment to discuss OPT

  • If you would like to discuss your OPT, you can schedule an appointment with an ISSP advisor. Do this using the East Coast timezone.
  • If you have scheduled an appointment:
    • Review the Form I-765 (click on "File Online") so you can ask questions during your OPT appointment.
    • Your OPT I-20 will be issued after the appointment and emailed to you.
Step 4: Apply for OPT online
  • OPT packet - application checklist and tips from ISSP
    • Look at the packet for information about additional documents you will need to submit, including an I-20 that lists your OPT dates. If you do not submit this I-20, your OPT will be denied, and your fee will not be refunded by USCIS.
  • Form I-765 (click on "File Online")
  • You must submit your OPT application within 30 days of when ISSP issued your OPT I-20.
  • You must be physically in the U.S. when you submit your application to USCIS.
Step 5: After filing OPT application
  • While we are available to discuss the OPT process with you, you are ultimately responsible for what you submit to USCIS, and the outcome.
  • If you file your OPT online, you will immediately get your receipt number (starting with IOE).
  • Within 2-3 weeks after filing your application, USCIS will also send you a paper Receipt Notice.
  • You can use the receipt number to check your case status online.
  • It takes several months for your OPT application to be approved. For current processing times, see the USCIS website for more information. 
    • Select the I-765 form, and then Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student [(c)(3)].
    • Most W&M students' forms are processed by the Potomac Service Center. You can determine the service center processing your application by looking in the lower left corner of your receipt notice.
Step 6: Your OPT is Approved
  • Once your OPT is approved, USCIS will create and mail your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card to the mailing address you submitted in your application. 
  • You may begin working once you receive your EAD card and the start date on the card has arrived.

OPT dates for students getting a degree conferred on January 20, 2023:

  • Earliest start and end date: January 21, 2023 - January 20, 2024
  • Latest start and end date: March 21, 2023 - March 20, 2024