Applying for OPT

Vanderbilt ISSS OPT Information

You should use OPT for your internship year to better maximize your H-1B time period. If you use OPT, you will likely end up with unused H-1B time that you can transfer to your post-residency employer.  

You can apply for OPT before matching into a residency program so you do not have to wait until Match Day. However, if you do this you need to be very certain of where you will match and when employment starts with that program. You must make sure your OPT begins at the right time. Most residency programs begin on July 1st and the OPT should start on that day. However, a few programs have mandatory Orientation Week and they consider this to be the start of employment. If your residency program has a June start date, you need to be sure that your OPT is valid as of that start date. It would be best to wait until after the Match to apply for OPT. OPT is normally issued within 60-90 days and you must have your employment authorization document (EAD) before your residency program begins.

Important Dates

- Completion date: date of completion of your last requirement (not graduation). You can use the end of the April rotation for this date, whether or not you are actually taking a rotation that month.

- OPT start date: must be within 60 days of your completion date. This depends on your residency program and you won’t know for sure until Match Day.

- Application date: you should start the application process 90 days prior to your completion date

Approximate Dates

- January: attend an OPT information session by ISSS

- Late January: start getting your application together and meeting with your ISSS advisor

- Completion date: end of April rotation

- Graduation date: first or second week in May

- OPT start date: see guidance above

- January AFTER you graduate: start working on getting your H-1B visa application together


If you travel outside the US before your degree completion date, please remember to have your valid immigration documents (an I-20 showing OPT Recommendation and travel signature), your USCIS receipt notice (from the OPT filing), along with your valid passport and F-1 US Visa.

If you need to travel outside the US during your OPT (after you get your EAD) you must have your valid immigration documents (I-20 with OPT information and travel signature), EAD Card (OPT approval), your residency acceptance letter as evidence of employment and valid passport and F-1 US Visa.

If you are travelling outside the US and your F-1 US Visa has expired you will need to apply for a new visa before you can reenter the US. The documents listed above will allow you to get a new F-1 visa from a US consulate and allow US Customs (CBP) to readmit you into the USA.

(reviewed by Heather Young, Associate Director of International Student and Scholar Services)