USCIS Offers 180-Day Work Authorization Extensions For OPT Students

Posted on February 25, 2021
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Automatic OPT extensions

The U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services has acknowledged its processing delays of the employment authorization for F1 students eligible for optional practical training (OPT). In order to avoid the negative impact these delays are causing nonimmigrant international students on F1 visas, USCIS has offered to automatically extend the employment authorization for 180 days.

This is subject to the timely filing of Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, based on STEM OPT. This is applicable to those STEM students whose post-completion OPT period expires while the application is still pending an adjudication from USCIS.

How Is USCIS Addressing I-765 Processing & Receipting Delays

USCIS is cognizant of such delays and is putting in extra hours to mitigate all backlogs. The workload is being redistributed so that receipt notices can printed and mailed as soon as the EAD application for OPT is received at the lockbox facilities.

Related Article: OPT Backlog Stresses F1 Students

USCIS has made progress in addressing the delays

How Will This Impact OPT Students On F1 Visa?

USCIS is addressing the receipting delays caused at lockboxes for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization relating to optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students. 

Related Read: How To File Form I-765

They have made the following accommodations to make sure students are not negatively affected – 

  • If you have filed the Form I-765 based on STEM OPT, USCIS will automatically extend the employment authorization for 180 days. This is applicable if your post-completion OPT period expires while the application is still pending.
  • If you used an outdated lockbox address your employment authorization application will still be accepted by USCIS. USCIS had announced a change to the filing address instructions on Jan. 8, 2021, and if you used the older addresses, your application will still not be rejected. 
  • As all EAD applications are date stamped upon arrival at the Lockbox, your received date will reflect the date it actually arrived at the Lockbox.
    The delays in processing will not reflect on the received date.

How Can OPT Students Expedite Their Employment Authorization Applications

Timely Submissions: File Form I-765 based on STEM OPT in a timely manner, before it expires.

Endorse Form I-20: Have the Form I-20 endorsed by the designated school official recommending a STEM extension. This is highly beneficial to establish identity and work authorization for purposes of documenting employment authorization. 

Correct Lockbox Address: USCIS has updated all lockbox addresses on Jan 8, 2021. While they may not reject your application for filing in the wrong location, you encouraged to check the form instructions on the USCIS website for the most current filing instructions to avoid delays.

Contact USCIS: If you have recently filed your application and are waiting for your receipt notice, wait at least 8 weeks before contacting USCIS about your case status.

USCIS Online Tool: Create a free USCIS online account where you can check the status of your case. You can locate current processing times and individual case statuses from this account. 

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