Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training is most commonly referred to as “OPT.” It is a period of 12 months during which a student holding F-1 status may work in the United States. Generally, students apply during the final semester of their studies, requesting full-time OPT to begin upon the completion of their academic program.

Students must apply before the program end date on their I-20 and it may take three (3) or more months to receive OPT permission from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Students should indicate interest in OPT when checking in at the Global Education Office (GEO) at the beginning of the semester in which they want to apply.

1: Establish eligibility for OPT. Meet with the International Student Advisor to determine that you:

  • Have been enrolled at Washington College for the previous semester, carrying 12 or more academic credits, and will continue until completion of the current semester. (Study Abroad is O.K.)
  • Have not worked off-campus without permission.
  • Already have a social security number. 
  • Are completing classes with passing grades and will graduate Washington College by the program end date indicated on your I-20.
  • Have supplied the Global Education Office with contact information
  • Are aware that it is better not to travel out of the United States until you receive a reply regarding your OPT from the U.S. Government.
  • Know that you will lose your OPT if you violate F-1 status.
  • Will work in your field of study.

2: Schedule an appointment with the International Student Advisor to assemble your application. Please bring:

  • Valid passport and I-94 card.
  • I-20s past and present.
  • Academic Record or Transcript.
  • Academic Status Letter (PDF) from your Academic Advisor.
  • OPT I-20 (will be issued/completed during your appointment with the advisor).
  • A personal check/money order (personal check is better) made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Check official documentation for the current form and fee (See I-765 Application for Employment for latest information).

3: Make two copies of your application (you can do this during your appointment)

  • Give one copy to the International Student Advisor and keep the other copy for your personal files.
  • Two to three weeks after you submit your application you will receive a receipt from the USCIS (US Citizens and Immigration Services). KEEP THAT RECEIPT! It is very important as you may be asked for it later. You may also check the status of your application using your receipt number and going to this link: Case Status
  • Please be aware that after you receive your card, if you relocate, it is your responsibility to notify the International Student Advisor of changes in your contact information. You have 10 days in which to notify of any change of address
  • Once employment has been secured; you must notify the International Student Advisor of your new employment within 10 days. Should you change employment or become unemployed; you must also notify the International Student Advisor within 10 days.
  • Likewise, although you will no longer be at Washington College during Semester Check-in, you must still have your contact information confirmed periodically to maintain your OPT status.