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Application Process

Application Materials

Compile the OPT application documents listed below to submit via the ISSS Portal. We recommend filing your application with USCIS at least 3 months in advance of your requested OPT start date. Vanderbilt students must attend an OPT informational workshop prior to submitting an OPT application for processing. You can view the complete list of application materials on the Student OPT Application Checklist.

Please follow the application instructions in the ISSS Portal OPT application to submit your request for an OPT recommendation.

Once your OPT I-20 has been issued, you are responsible for filing your application with USCIS. Keep in mind that processing times vary and can be difficult to predict.

USCIS Processing

I-797 Receipt Notice: Within approximately two weeks of receiving your application, USCIS will send out your I-797 Receipt Notice. Review your I-797 carefully. Check the spelling of your name and your date of birth. If you notice any errors, contact ISSS right away.

I-797 Approval Notice and Employment Authorization Document (EAD): USCIS will review your application and return a decision in writing to the mailing address listed on your I-765. Processing times fluctuate and can take 90 days or longer. Once your I-765 application has been approved, USCIS will send out a paper I-797 Approval Notice and your Employment Authorization Card (EAD) separately. Remember that you do not have permission to begin employment (paid or unpaid) until: 1) your OPT application has been approved 2) you have received the EAD and 3) the start date printed on it has arrived.