U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently been experiencing serious delays in processing and receipting OPT. USCIS announced on 2/26/2021 flexibilities for OPT applicants who may be affected by delayed receipt notices for the Form I-765, which is used for filing OPT/STEM OPT. These flexibilities apply only to applications received on or after October 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021
12-Month OPT Period Flexibilities
Due to processing delays, some 12-month OPT applicants may only be eligible for a shortened period of OPT if their approval date falls outside of their normal 60-day grace period. This is because F-1 regulations require that the OPT end date cannot be more than 14 months from the program completion date. (The program completion date for Fall 2020 was 12/18/2020 and for Spring is 05/14/2021.) To allow F-1 students to complete a full period of 12-month OPT, USCIS will temporarily allow the 14-month period to start from the date of approval of the Form I-765, instead of the completion date listed on page 1 of the I-20. USCIS will approve applications for post-completion OPT with validity dates reflecting the same amount of time originally recommended. (Example: Your completion date was 12/18/2020. You applied for post-completion OPT and your application was still processing after 2/16/2021, the end of your 60 day grace period. Your OPT is approved with a start date of 03/05/2021. Normally, your OPT would end on 02/15/2022, and you would lose some OPT time. If you filed your I-765 application with USCIS between October 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021, USCIS will currently allow you to have an OPT end date of 3/04/2021, providing you with the full 12 months of OPT.)
If you receive an approval with less than the full 12 month amount of OPT time requested, you can request a correction of the EAD due to USCIS error. USCIS will issue a corrected EAD with a new end date to cover the full amount of OPT time recommended in the original application.
Refiling Following Rejection
Notify BIO immediately if your OPT/STEM OPT is rejected! Normally, if your OPT/STEM OPT Extension is rejected, you must file a completely new application withUSCIS. If the application is rejected after your filing deadline (the end of the 60-day grace period for OPT; end of the OPT EAD for STEM OPT) refiling would normally be denied.USCIS will temporarily accept a refiled Form I-765 for OPT and STEM OPT and consider it as filed on the original filing date (before the rejection) IF:
The original, timely filed application was received on or after Oct. 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021, inclusive; 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.
Applicants refiling a Form I-765 for OPT or STEM OPT do 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. Applicants refiling an application should include a copy of the rejection notice with the refiling application.
Missing or Deficient Signatures
Applications with missing or deficient signatures are generally rejected at the lockbox. Currently, 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.