USCIS Processing Updates for 12-Month OPT Applications and STEM OPT Extension Applications

March 2, 2021

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.