By Joy Dungca
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced it will offer flexibility to F-1 students whose receipt notices are delayed for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This flexibility applies only to applications received by USCIS between October 1, 2020 and May 1, 2021 (inclusive) at select lockboxes.
- Flexibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT)
F-1 students can normally participate in up to 12 months of OPT within a 14-month window after the end of their program. Due to the lockbox delays in processing Forms I-765, some F-1 students’ OPT periods have been shortened. In response, USCIS is allowing the 14-month OPT window to begin from the Form I-765 approval date, rather than the date of program completion. This will enable F-1 students to complete a full OPT period.
When USCIS issues OPT application approvals, it will provide validity dates honoring the time suggested by the designated school official (DSO) on Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. If the applicant has already received an approved Form I-765 for less time than requested due to lockbox delays, they may request a correction.
F-1 students who received a shortened OPT period may request a corrected employment authorization document (EAD). USCIS will issue a corrected EAD with a new end date so that the student can complete the full amount of OPT requested in their original application.
- Extending Refiling Deadlines
Due to the delays, some rejected OPT applicants could not refile on time. USCIS will accept a refiled Form I-765 for rejected applications if the first application was submitted on time and received between October 1, 2020 and May 1, 2021 (inclusive). Refiled applications must be submitted by May 31, 2021 and must include a copy of the rejection notice.
Applicants will not need to submit a new Form I-20 if the original application was received within 30 days of the DSO’s recommendation, or within 60 days for STEM-OPT.
- Missing or Deficient Signatures
Normally, USCIS rejects Form I-765 applications with missing or deficient signatures. Now, if a lockbox receives an application with a missing or deficient signature, USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) instead of denying the application, and provide the applicant with an opportunity to fix the signature-related error.
For help understanding how USCIS policy impacts your OPT and other case-specific questions, please contact your trusted Chugh, LLP attorney.