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Learn About New USCIS Flexibilities for Some OPT Applicants


March 1, 2021

On Feb. 26, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced flexibilities for certain international students affected by delayed receipt notices for Forms I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization.” These flexibilities apply only to applications received on or after Oct. 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021, inclusive.

Due to delays at certain lockboxes with issuing receipt notices for Forms I-765 for F-1 students participating in optional practical training (OPT), USCIS now offers the following flexibilities to students impacted by the delays.

14-month OPT Period

To allow F-1 students to complete the full 12-month period of OPT, (the 14-month requirement will begin from the date of approval of the Form I-765 for applications for post-completion OPT, instead of from the student’s program end date.

Starting Feb. 26, USCIS will approve applications for post-completion OPT with validity dates reflecting the same amount of time originally recommended by the designated school official (DSO) from their school on the Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.”

Refiling Following Rejection

USCIS recognizes that due to the lockbox delays, some applicants who timely filed a Form I-765 for OPT and whose applications were later rejected are unable to timely refile within the required application timeframes. USCIS will accept a refiled Form I-765 for OPT and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (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; and
  • USCIS subsequently rejected it.

Refiled applications must be received by May 31, 2021, for USCIS to treat the application as though filed on the original received date.

Missing or Deficient Signatures

Applications with missing or deficient signatures are generally rejected at the lockbox. This policy remains unchanged. 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, to give the applicant the opportunity to respond and provide the necessary signature or correct the deficiency.

Review the Form I-765 instructions on USCIS’ website to ensure your application is complete before filing it.

Read the USCIS web alert for more information on these new flexibilities for OPT participants.

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