Monday, August 9, 2021

USCIS Extends Flexibilities to Certain Applicants Filing Form I-765 for OPT and STEM OPT

Pursuant to a court order, USCIS has extended flexibilities for certain foreign students affected by delayed receipt notices issued for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. These flexibilities apply only to those applications filed on or after Oct. 1, 2020, through Oct. 31, 2021, inclusive.

As acknowledged by USCIS, filers of I-765 EAD applications for OPT and STEM OPT extensions have experienced significant delays in the issuance of receipt notices. In an attempt to assist certain applicants impacted by the delays, USCIS first enacted flexibilities for certain applicants filing form I-765 for OPT on February 26, 2021, which applied to cases received through May 1, 2021. However, those flexibilities were extended by court order on July 23, 2021, and now apply to cases received through October 31, 2021.

Until October 31, 2021, USCIS will allow for the following flexibilities:

Guaranteed Processing of Form I-765 OPT/STEM OPT applications in 120 days

  • USCIS will process all applications for OPT and STEM OPT within 120 days of receipt. Processing means that the application will be approved, denied or an RFE will be issued within 120 days.

Grant of post-completion OPT EAD validity period

  • USCIS will grant a full 12 months of post-completion OPT irrespective of the requirement that OPT be completed within 14 months of graduation.
  • USCIS will grant OPT for the full period originally recommended by the DSO on Form I-20, irrespective of the time of adjudication.

 Retroactive correction of OPT EADs already issued

  • Upon eligible applicants’ request, USCIS will issue a CORRECTED EAD for any post-completion OPT EAD application received between Oct. 1, 2020, through Oct. 31, 2021, inclusive, that was issued with a validity period that was less than the DSO’s recommended validity period.

Acceptance of previously-rejected OPT/STEM OPT applications

  • USCIS will accept re-filed I-765 applications for OPT/STEM OPT that were originally filed on time between October 1, 2020 and October 31, 2021 and later rejected.
  • Resubmitted applications must be received prior to November 30, 2021.
  • Resubmitted applications will be processed as if received on the original date (i.e. the full period of OPT will be granted, but the original I-20 will be accepted without the requirement of a new I-20).

o   If the case was rejected for missing or deficient signature(s), a request for Evidence will be issued instead of a denial.

Acceptance of Form I-765 post-completion OPT applications 120 days before completion of program

  • From July 23, 2021 until October 31, 2021, USCIS will accept I-765 post-completion OPT applications submitted up to 120 days (instead of 90) before completion of the respective program.

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