USCIS extends flexibilities to certain applicants filing form  for F-1 visa students


USCIS has announced flexibilities for international students on F-1 visas who have applied for Employment Authorization (EAD) under the Optional Practical Training program and have not received receipt notices from the agency.

The flexibilities apply only to applications received on or after October 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021, USCIS said on Friday.

It was reported that in early February, thousands of F-1 holders did not receive receipt notices even after waiting for more than two months. F-1 visa holders can stay in the country for a maximum of 60 days after their graduation unless they get their OPT, or they transition into another visa.

Students who file for OPT can remain in the country until they receive a decision from USCIS, even if the application is pending beyond the 60-day grace period.

USCIS said delays at certain lockboxes in issuing receipt notices OPT “are a result of COVID-19 restrictions, a dramatic increase in filings of certain benefit requests, postal service volume and delays, and other external factors.”

The agency said although it has made progress in addressing the problem, it is extending the flexibilities to help certain OPT applicants impacted by the delays. The following categories of OPT applicants will benefit from Friday’s announcement:

  • F-1 students who could not have used their 12-month OPT —there is a provision that OPT must be completed with 14 months of graduation — because of the lockbox delays, will now be allowed to complete the full period.
  • Applicants whose Form I-765 were rejected are unable to timely refile within the required application time frames because of the lockbox delays can now refile.

The OPT delays first started last October and USCIS had not acknowledged it till recently.

The delays affected both first-time OPT applicants, as well as those who are applying for the two-year STEM extension.

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 rather than deny the application, to give the applicant the opportunity to respond and provide the necessary signature or correct the deficiency.

We encourage applicants filing Form I-765 to review the form instructions on our website to ensure their application is complete before filing it.