It typically takes at least 2-5 months for OPT to be approved, so we recommend starting the process early.
Step 1: Attend an OPT Session
Sessions will take place by zoom, and will last approximately 1 hour. Please refer to the Fall 2020 OPT Slides (pdf). The zoom link will be emailed to the international student listserv several days before each session.
Wednesday, October 7, 2pm
Tuesday, October 13, 10am
Friday, October 23, 11am
Thursday, October 29, 8pm
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
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 2-5 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.