EAH Immigration Blog

Flexibilities Announced for Certain F-1 Applicants Filing for OPT

USCIS has experienced delays at certain lockboxes in issuing receipt notices for Form I‐765 for optional practical training (OPT) for F‐1 students. These delays are due to COVID‐19 restrictions, a dramatic increase in filings of certain benefit requests, postal service volume and delays, and other external factors. In an effort to address the problem, USCIS announced on February 26 that it will extend flexibilities for certain foreign students affected by delayed receipt notices for Form I‐765, Application for Employment Authorization. These flexibilities apply only to applications received on or after Oct. 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021, inclusive.

F‐1 students may participate in up to 12 months of post‐completion OPT, which must be completed within 14 months from the end of their program. Due to the delays at the lockbox, some applicants may only be eligible for a shortened period of OPT within that 14‐month period. To allow F‐1 students to complete the full period of requested OPT (up to 12 months), USCIS will allow the 14‐month period to commence from the date of approval of the Form I‐765 for applications for post‐completion OPT. F‐1 students requesting post‐completion OPT who receive an approval of Form I‐765 for less than the full amount of OPT time requested may request a correction of the EAD due to USCIS error.

Applicants for OPT must file Form I‐765 during certain timeframes. However, due to the lockbox delays, some applicants who timely filed Form I‐765 for OPT, and whose applications are later rejected, are unable to timely refile within the required application timeframes. USCIS will accept a refiled but previously rejected Form I‐765 for OPT and STEM OPT as filed on the original filing date if the original, timely filed application was received on or after Oct. 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021. Refiled applications must be received by May 31, 2021, but generally do not need to obtain a new Form I‐20 with an updated OPT recommendation from the DSO. Applicants are advised to include a copy of the rejection notice to facilitate review of the case.

Finally, applications with missing or deficient signatures are generally rejected at the lockbox. However, if the lockbox accepts a Form I‐765 application for OPT or STEM OPT with a missing or deficient signature, USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence rather than deny the application.

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