Friday, February 26, 2021, USCIS announced flexibility for OPT receipt delays and improper rejections. These flexibilities apply only to OPT submissions received by USCIS on or after October 1, 2020 through May 1, 2021. USCIS’ flexibility includes the following:
14-month OPT Period Flexibilities
F-1 students are eligible for 12 months of post-completion OPT, which must be completed within 14 months from the end of their program. Due to the delays at the lockbox, some applicants may only be eligible for a shortened period of OPT within that 14-month period. 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.
USCIS will now 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 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
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, 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 as required by the regulations.
Missing or Deficient Signatures
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.
Please contact SPS Immigration should you have questions regarding your immigration status.