On February 26, 2021, USCIS announced new flexibility policies for certain foreign students who have not received receipt notices for Form I-765 petitions for OPT as a result of USCIS delays.
USCIS has stated that the agency has been experiencing delays at certain lockboxes and has not been able to issue receipt notices for certain Form I-765 applications for optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students in a timely manner. As a result, USCIS will provide the following flexibilities to assist certain applicants for OPT who have been impacted by the delays.
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.
Beginning February 26, 2021, 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.
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 (not to exceed 12 months) due to the requirement that the OPT be completed within 14 months of the program end date, may request a correction of the EAD due to USCIS error.
USCIS will issue a corrected EAD with a new end date, as requested, to cover the full amount of OPT time recommended in the original application.
Generally, applicants for OPT must file the Form I-765 during certain timeframes. USCIS has stated that due to the lockbox delays, some applicants who timely filed Form I-765 for OPT, and whose applications were later rejected, have been unable to refile within the required application timeframes.
As a form of relief, USCIS will accept a refiled 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, inclusive; and
- USCIS subsequently rejected it.
Applicants must ensure that refiled applications are received by May 31, 2021, for USCIS to treat the application as though filed on the original received date.
Applicants refiling a Form I-765 for OPT or STEM OPT will not need to obtain a new Form I-20 with an updated OPT recommendation from the DSO, as long as they originally submitted an application for post-completion OPT within 30 days of the DSO’s recommendation or an application for STEM OPT within 60 days of the DSO’s recommendation as required by the regulations.
Applicants refiling an application are advised to include a copy of the rejection notice to facilitate review of the case.