F-1 Students Can Now File Form I-765 Online
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on 4/12/2021 that F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) and 24 month STEM Extension of OPT (STEM) can now file online. Please click here for the entire announcement. Please remember that the first step in your application continues to be requesting your OPT or STEM recommendation I-20 form from OGS. Review the Applying for OPT, and Applying for STEM Extension for more details.
Announcement: USCIS announced flexibilities for certain applicants filing for OPT and STEM Extension on February 26, 2021.
The announcement is available here and answers to frequently asked questions are provided below.
1 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 May 1, 2021.
2 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.
3 What flexibilities is USCIS offering to certain OPT applicants?
USCIS is offering the following flexibilities:
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 May 1, 2021, both dates included; 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.
- 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.
USCIS Lockbox Updates
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, USCIS is experiencing delays in issuing receipt notices for some applications and petitions filed at a USCIS lockbox facility. The information below explains the current state of the lockbox operations and the issues affecting receipt notices. Release Date 01/08/2021
The information below explains the current state of the USCIS lockbox operations and the issues affecting receipt notices.
As a result of COVID-19 restrictions, an increase in filings, current postal service volume and other external factors, you may experience a delay of four to six weeks in receiving your receipt notice after properly filing an application or petition with a USCIS lockbox. These delays will not affect the receipt date which is determined pursuant to 8 C.F.R. 103.2(a)(7). Delays may vary among form types and lockbox locations. In some cases, you may experience significant delays if you filed a non-family based Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, or Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, based on eligibility categories described in 8 C.F.R. 274a.12(c)(3), relating to F-1 students.
The health and safety of our workforce remains a top priority. Across all USCIS offices, including lockbox facilities, the agency has taken necessary measures such as increased social distancing and frequent cleaning in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control guidance to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Some lockbox operations in locations that have been severely impacted by COVID-19 must adhere to stricter local guidelines.
What USCIS Is Doing
The USCIS lockbox workforce¹ is working extra hours and redistributing its workload in order to minimize delays. Once we open and process your application, we print and mail the receipt notice. We do not anticipate any receipting delays that would result in a payment that is past its validity date.
What You Can Do
If you have already filed your application and are waiting for your receipt notice, we appreciate your patience. We are working as quickly as possible to complete the intake of all filings.
You can take steps to decrease the time it takes us to process and send your receipt notice or find out the status of your case:
- File online (if this option is available for your form type) and receive immediate confirmation that we have received your form instead of waiting for the mail;
- Create a free USCIS online account and check the status of your case from your mobile device, anywhere, anytime using our case status online tool; or
- Complete Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, and clip it to the front of your form when filing at a USCIS lockbox to request a text message and/or email when we accept your form.
¹The USCIS lockbox facilities located in Chicago, Illinois; Phoenix, Arizona; and Lewisville, Texas, are operated by a Department of Treasury designated financial agent, plus federal staff.
STEM OPT administrative fee
Office of Global Services (OGS) continues to serve students during their Optional Practical Training (OPT) period.
As OGS continues to support our students with the Optional Practical Training (OPT) process, we want to bring to your attention that there have been significant changes implemented by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) that will require extended support and reporting for STEM OPT period.
To provide continued support and service for an extended period of 24 months after graduation, including extensive tracking and reporting to SEVP, alumni who request STEM OPT Extension recommendation from OGS will be advised to pay an additional STEM OPT administrative fee.
The payment option will be embedded in the STEM I-20 request e-form. Students will upload the payment receipt in the STEM I-20 request form as evidence of payment.
To learn more about the STEM OPT and additional reporting requirements, please click here.
All four of the below criteria must be met in order for a student to be eligible for the 24-month Optional Practical Training extension:
- Students who are on Post-Completion OPT; and
- Who have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD (certificate programs are not eligible) in a field included on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s list of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields within the last 10 years (see below for more details about how to find out if your degree is STEM eligible); and
- Who are employed for at least 20 hours per week in a paid job directly related to his/her field of study; and
- Who are working for an employer that is enrolled in the U.S. Government’s E-Verify program.
List of degrees in STEM Fields
To verify STEM eligibility, look at the code listed under “Primary Major” on Page 1 of your I-20 and compare that code in the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) column of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security STEM Designated Degree Programs list. If your major code is on the list, then it is considered to be STEM eligible.
E-Verify is a database system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration. It allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly-hired employees. E-Verify is currently voluntary in most states. For more information click here.
24-Month extension available twice
The 24-month extension of OPT is available to each student at TWO non-consecutive periods of time. Each STEM extension must meet the above-listed STEM eligibility requirements.
Please note: this rule is different from the “standard” 12-month OPT, under which students can be approved for multiple OPT periods for each higher degree earned in the U.S. (i.e. bachelor’s, then master’s, then doctoral).
24-month STEM OPT extension based on previous degree
Students can apply for a STEM Optional Practical Training extension based on a previously earned STEM degree from an accredited U.S. institution within 10 years of completing the degree. The student could previously applied for OPT, but could not have applied for a STEM extension based on this previous degree.
For example, a student receives a bachelor’s degree in Engineering, but did not receive STEM OPT based on that degree. The student then got a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) and obtains authorization for 12 months of OPT based on the MBA. The student may be eligible (if meeting all other STEM OPT eligibility requirements) to apply for 24-month STEM OPT at the end of the 12-month OPT authorized following his MBA.
Any students that may be eligible for STEM based on a previous degree should make an appointment with an OGS advisor.
Students and employers are required to complete the new Form I-983 in order to begin the STEM OPT extension process.
When to Apply
Students must apply for the 24-month STEM OPT extension prior to the expiration of the first 12 months of “regular” OPT. The application must be received by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) prior to the expiration date of the OPT EAD in order to be properly (timely) filed.
USCIS will not accept I-765 applications for STEM extensions any earlier than 90 days before the current EAD expiration date. Accordingly, OGS will process a STEM recommendation I-20 no more than three months and three weeks in advance of your current OPT end date.
*You cannot apply for STEM extension after your Post-OPT EAD has expired.
How to apply
STEP 1 – Prepare Form I-983 Training Plan with employer. – See guidelines in tab below
STEP 2 – Submit STEM Extension I-20 Request to OGS
You must upload the following documents on the e-form:
- I-983 completed by you and your employer
- Copy of OPT EAD card
- Northeastern University Transcript
- Proof of the STEM fee payment (screenshot of confirmation page)
STEP 3 – Apply for STEM OPT extension with USCIS:
- Original I-765 – please ensure you are using the most up-to-date Form I-765, linked here, or else your request will be denied by USCIS. The I-765 requires a wet signature in black ink. Please refer to the tab at the end of this section for more information.
- Original G-1145
- Copy of new I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation on page 2. You must sign the I-20 in ink at the bottom of page 1.
- Copy of all previous I-20s
- Copy of passport identity page — include all correction and extension pages
- Copy of most current F-1 student visa stamp or change of status approval notice
- Copy of I-94
- Copy of previous EADs (front and back)
- $410 check, money order or bank check made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- If USCIS receives your application with the wrong fee payment, your application will be rejected and returned to you. (If this occurs, do not resubmit your application; contact an OGS advisor as you may need a new OPT recommendation)
- Two passport photos with white background (lightly print name and SEVIS ID on back of each photo; passport photo MUST be less than 30 days old and glasses should not be worn in photo)
- Copy of your official Northeastern transcript
- Provide a letter from your STEM OPT employer that includes job duties and specifies if employment is part-time or full-time (Recommended).
IMPORTANT: All documents must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the 12 month period of Post-Completion OPT!
Suggestions for Completing Form I-983
In Section 1 of the Training Plan:
- SEVIS School Code can be found in the school information section on P. 1 of your I-20, under school code and approval date.
- CIP Code is in the Program of Study section on P. 1 of your I-20, under MAJOR 1.
For DSO Name and Contact Information in Boston, please use the following:
- Sima Kalmens
360 Huntington Ave
Boston, MA 02115
For DSO Name and Contact Information in Seattle, please use the following:
- Angela MacDougall
Northeastern University – Seattle
401 Terry Avenue N., Suite 103
Seattle, WA 98109
For DSO Name and Contact Information in Silicon Valley please use the following:
- Giscard Dimanche
Northeastern University – Silicon Valley
6024 Silver Creek Valley Road
San Jose, CA 95138
For DSO Name and Contact Information in San Francisco, please use the following:
- Giscard Dimanche
Northeastern University – San Francisco
600 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
- Employment Authorization Number: USCIS# on your EAD card.
- Evaluation of Student Progress sections do not need to be completed for the initial STEM OPT I-20 request. Evaluations are required at the 12-month and 24-month points of the student’s STEM OPT.
- The Training Plan does not need to cover your regular 12-month OPT period, only the STEM OPT period.
- If you have more than one job while on STEM OPT, you must submit Form I-983 for every one of these jobs. Please note that each job you have while on STEM OPT must be at least 20 hours per week.
- It is best to type up the information on Form I-983, if possible. If not possible, you may hand-write it, but make sure that it is easy to read.
For any other assistance completing Form I-983, please refer to U.S. Department of Homeland Security web site.
Suggestions for Completing Form I-765 for STEM Extension
Below are some general guidelines for completing Form I-765 for STEM OPT Extension. Please read the instructions for each item and write the information on the form, printing clearly and legibly or you may type the form online and print it.
Part 1. Reason for Applying
Field 1: I am applying for… – Unless you are applying for a replace of a lost EAD card, you should indicate that you are applying for “Initial permission to accept employment.”
Part 2. Information About You
Field 1: Your Name – Print clearly or type your family name in capital letters, followed by the first or given and middle name(s) if any. Write your name as it appears in your passport.
Fields 2-4: Other Names Used – Fill this out only if you have used other names on official documents or if you have a maiden name (name used prior to marriage, usually applies to women who have married).
Fields 5-6: Mailing Address – The address you enter here should be the address to which correspondence can be sent for the next 3-5 months during the OPT application period. If you are providing an address where you do no reside, please provide the name of the person who resides at that address in Field 5.a. “In Care of ______”.
Address errors (i.e. undeliverable address, moving before OPT is approved, etc.) are a common cause for delay of or failure to receive the OPT EAD.
Field 7: Physical Address – If different from mailing address, the address where you reside in the U.S.
Field 8: Alien Registration Number – If you have an A-Number, enter it here.
Field 9: USCIS Online Account Number – If you have created an online account with USCIS, enter your account number here.
Field 10: Gender – Check the appropriate box.
Field 11: Marital Status – Check the appropriate box.
Field 12: Previously filed I-765? – Check yes since you have previously applied for OPT
Field 13: Has the Social Security Administration (SSA) ever officially issued a Social Security card to you? – Check the appropriate box.
- If yes, skip to Item 13b.
- If no, skip to Item 14.
Field 14: Do you want the SSA to issue you a Social Security card? – Check the appropriate box. If you check no, skip to Item 18.a. You will not receive a Social Security card.
Field 15: Consent for Disclosure – Only answer Item 15 if you checked yes in Item 14. Complete Fields 16-17.
Field 18: Your Country or Countries of Citizenship or Nationality – List all countries where you are currently a citizen or national. The country of citizenship should match what appears on the applicant’s I-20.
Field 19: Place of Birth – Provide city, state, and country of applicant’s birth.
Field 20: Date of Birth – Enter the numerical date of birth as month/day/year (4 digits). For example, June 29, 1988 should be entered as 06/29/1988.
Field 21: Information About Your Last Arrival in the U.S. – Enter the 11-digit I-94 number that is found on the electronic I-94. It is called “Admission (I-94) Record Number.”
Field 22: Date of Your Last Arrival Into the U.S. – Enter the numerical date of latest entry as month/day/year (4 digits).
Field 23: Place of your Last Arrival Into the U.S. – Enter the place of last entry. The place of entry is often written in three letter abbreviations, such as BOS for Boston and SFR for San Francisco.
Field 24: Immigration Status at Your Last Arrival – If F-1 appears on your I-94, enter student. If you entered in another status and changed your non-immigrant status in the U.S. and have not travelled outside of the U.S. since receiving your change of status, please indicate the status you held upon initial entry into the U.S.
Field 25: Current Immigration Status – Enter student.
Field 26: Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Number – Enter the 10-digit SEVIS ID starting with N that is found on the top left of your I-20.
Field 27: Eligibility Category – Enter the appropriate code for the work authorization you are requesting.
- STEM OPT is (c) (3) (C)
Field 28: (c) (3) (c) STEM OPT Eligibility Category – Provide your degree, employer’s name as listed in E-Verify, and employer’s E-Verify identification number.
Part 3. Applicant’s Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, Certification, and Signature
Fields 1-2: Applicant’s Statement – Check Item 1.a. unless an interpreter translated the form for you or another person prepared the form on your behalf. You should not check Item 1.b. nor Item 2 if you are filing on your own without the help of an interpreter or another person.
Fields 3-5: Applicant’s Contact Information – Provide requested contact information.
Field 6: Select this box if you are a Salvadoran or Guatemalan national eligible for benefits under the AVC settlement agreement – Check box if applicable.
Field 7: Applicant’s Signature – Acknowledge Applicant’s Declaration and Certification by providing your signature (in pen) and date.
Parts 4-5 – These sections should only be completed if you have an interpreter translate the form for you or another person complete the form on your behalf. You should not complete this section if you are filing on your own without the help of an interpreter or another person.
Part 6. Additional Information – Use this extra space to provide any additional information required on the application.
Mailing your application to USCIS
Once you have your documents and I-20 for the 24-month STEM extension, and you have copied all documentation and assembled the packet, you must send it to the USCIS address below. However its always best practice to confirm the most up-to-date USCIS Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765 directly on the USCIS website. It is recommended that you mail your STEM packet via certified/guaranteed mail and obtain a receipt with tracking number.
Effective 01/08/2021, you will mail your application to the USCIS Chicago lockbox:
For U.S. Postal Service deliveries:
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680
For courier service deliveries (non-U.S. Postal Service: FedEx, UPS, and DHL):
Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn – 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517
We strongly recommend that you make copies of your complete application for your records before mailing your application to USCIS.
eShipGlobal Mailing Option
eShipGlobal offers a shipping service for international students sending their OPT/STEM application to USCIS. eShipGlobal allows students to send OPT applications to USCIS offices. Students can choose their carrier (UPS, FedEx, or USPS), what type of delivery (next day, 2-day, etc.) and ship at discounted rates. This service is not a Northeastern service. All inquiries should be directed to eShipGlobal directly.
Northeastern University does not ship OPT applications to USCIS for students.
For More Information on how to use this service please see the instructions linked below:
- OGS requires 10 business days to process a request for STEM OPT recommendation.
- Note that USCIS advertises normal processing time for STEM OPT requests as being around 100 days.
After the documentation leaves the respective Lockbox, it is forwarded to the USCIS Service Center. About fifteen days after USCIS receives your application for the 24-month OPT extension, you should receive a Form I-797, a receipt notice from USCIS.
What happens after I submit my documents to USCIS?
- You should receive a receipt notice from USCIS. You can look up your case status online using the case number.
- Once your STEM OPT is approved, expect to first receive an approval notice and then an EAD card.
- While your 24-month OPT STEM extension application is pending, you may continue working for up to 180 days (6 months)*
*The period of the 24-month STEM OPT extension starts the day after the expiration of your original period of approved Post-Completion OPT. While your 24-month OPT STEM extension application is pending, you may continue working for up to 180 days (6 months).
*The Code of Federal Regulations, 8CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C) and 8CFR 247a.12(c)(6)(iv), automatically extend your work authorization while the application is pending. However, you must have already submitted all the appropriate documentation to USCIS and paid the filing fee prior to the expiration date of your Post-Completion OPT.
Important reminders and most common application mistakes
- Do not submit STEM OPT application to USCIS prior to obtaining I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation
- USCIS must receive the STEM OPT application within 60 days of the STEM OPT recommendation by the OGS; if the application is not received by USCIS within 60 days after the issuance of STEM OPT I-20, the application will be denied.
- Do not mail in your application so that USCIS receives it more than 90 days before your OPT EAD end date. Your application must be received by USCIS before your OPT EAD expires. Applications received outside of these times will be denied.
- If your entire application is returned to you, consult with an OGS Advisor before resubmitting the application; your application may not be considered “received” and you may need a new I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation.
- Make sure that the address on I-765 is valid for receiving mail at all times while your STEM OPT is pending
Employment during STEM OPT
Restrictions on types of employment permitted during 24-month STEM OPT include:
- Any job the student has on STEM OPT must be related to his/her program of study
- Students on STEM OPT are only allowed to work for e-verified employers
- Volunteering/unpaid employment is not permitted during the STEM OPT extension
- Self-employment is not permitted during the STEM OPT extension
- Students on STEM OPT may not work for any employer for less than 20 hours per week. Working for more than one employer is only permitted if each job is at least 20 hours per week and each employer is E-verified.
- Employment must constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship. The employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience. You can read more about what constitutes an employer-employee relationship via the STEM OPT guidelines provided by USCIS.
- If you have questions about whether your employment arrangement meets STEM eligibility requirements, please consult with your employer and legal counsel. (Please refer to Study in the States for information regarding STEM eligibility requirements)
Travel outside U.S. during STEM OPT
If you travel outside the U.S. or its territories during the approved STEM OPT extension period, to re-enter the country, you must present the following documents at the border:
- A passport which should be valid for at least six months from the date you return to the U.S. and your unexpired F-1 visa stamp
- I-20 with a valid travel signature. (While you are participating in OPT, travel signatures are valid for only 6 months)
- Your Employment Authorization Document card for STEM OPT extension*
- Proof of employment
*If your STEM OPT application is pending and you plan to travel abroad, please make sure your Post-OPT Employment Authorization Document is still valid. If your Post-OPT Employment Authorization Document is already expired, traveling abroad is NOT recommended.
If you travel during your OPT or STEM period and your F-1 visa has expired, you will need to obtain a new F-1 visa. While on OPT/STEM, you are still considered to be an F-1 student. Expect to show similar documents as the first time you applied for your visa (check with your local US embassy for requirements). Additionally, you should have your valid STEM EAD card, I-20 with STEM recommendation on page 2 and travel signature within 6 months, passport valid within 6 months, and proof of employment. Please see Renewing your F-1 visa for further instructions on how to renew your visa.