USCIS announced flexibilities for certain applicants filing for OPT and STEM Extension

February 26, 2021

The announcement is available here and answers to frequently asked questions are provided below.

  • Do these flexibilities apply to me?
    • These flexibilities apply to students who applied for OPT (Optional Practical Training) or OPT STEM Extension and UCSIS received your application on or after Oct. 1, 2020, through October 31, 2021.
  • Why is USCIS offering these flexibilities?
    • USCIS experienced delays in issuing receipts for OPT applications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have made progress with addressing the problem but are extending flexibilities to assist certain OPT applicants impacted by the delays.
  • What flexibilities is USCIS offering to certain OPT applicants?
    • USCIS is offering flexibilities related to the following: 14-month OPT Period Flexibilities, refiling following rejection, and missing/deficient signatures.

14-month OPT Period Flexibilities

Remember! USCIS approval dates for OPT depend on the date you apply, and subsequently, the date your application is adjudicated. When a student applies during their grace period (within 60 days from the date of graduation), their OPT end date can be up to 14 months from the graduation date. The duration of your Employment Authorization does not exceed 12 months.  

  • 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. 

Refiling Following Rejection

This applies to any student who received a rejection notice due to the lockbox delays, despite having timely filed Form I-765 for OPT and was unable to timely refile within the required application timeframes.

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 October 31, 2021, both dates included; and 
  • USCIS subsequently rejected it. 

Refiled applications must be received by November 30, 2021, for USCIS to treat the application as though filed on the original received date. 

  • Do I need to request OGS to give me a new I-20 for refiling?
    • No, you do not need to obtain a new Form I-20 with an updated OPT recommendation from the DSO, as long as you 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. Important! If you are refiling an application, you should include a copy of the rejection notice to facilitate review of the case. 

Missing or Deficient Signatures 

Note that 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 (RFE) rather than deny the application, to give you the opportunity to respond and provide the necessary signature or correct the deficiency. 

It is your responsibility to review the Form I-765 instructions on the USCIS website to ensure your application is complete before filing it.  

Should you have additional inquiries, please reach out to OGS and an advisor will get back to you as soon as possible.