USCIS Extends Flexibilities for Some Applicants Filing Form I-765

March 1, 2021 Ian Love

Key Points

  • USCIS is permitting flexibilities for some foreign students whose Form I-765 receipt notices are delayed
  • Flexibilities apply to forms received by USCIS between October 1, 2020 and May 1, 2021
  • USCIS will approve applications for post-completion OPT training with validity dates that reflect the amount of time recommended by officials at the applicant’s school, as stated on Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, regardless of the applicant’s graduation date
  • USCIS will allow certain applications that had been rejected to be refiled and accorded the original filing dates, as long as USCIS receives the refiled applications by May 31, 2021
  • Applicants refiling a form I-765 for OPT or STEM OPT do not need a new Form I-20 with an updated OPT recommendation from a school official, provided they originally applied within the required time frame
  • USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) instead of rejecting or denying an application with a missing signature as part of its flexible measures
  • The above accommodations are effective immediately

Overview

Effective immediately, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced flexibilities for some foreign students whose receipt notices for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, have been delayed.

Background

USCIS has experienced delays in issuing receipts for Form I-765 for optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students, increases in filing and other factors. These delays have resulted in applicants receiving shortened employment authorization periods and have also required schools to reissue documentation to affected students.

Who is Affected?

The flexibilities apply to forms received by USCIS between October 1, 2020 and May 1, 2021.

There are three distinct accommodations being offered by USCIS. The first affects those in F-1 status who have applied for post-completion OPT work authorization but have not received their employment authorization document (EAD) in a timely manner due to USCIS processing delays.

F-1 students may engage in 12 months of post-completion OPT, and they are normally required to complete this 12-month period within 14 months of graduation from their educational program. Because of delays in the issuance of receipt notices and processing of applications for OPT work authorization, many OPT applicants were not receiving their employment authorization from USCIS in time to complete the 12 months of employment within 14 months of graduating from their program.

To mitigate the issue resulting from USCIS delays, USCIS will begin to count the 14-month period from the date when the application for OPT work authorization is approved, rather than from the date of graduation. USCIS will also approve applications for post-completion OPT training with validity dates that reflect the amount of time recommended by officials at the applicant’s school, as stated on Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. This means that even if the start date recommended by the school officials has passed by the time USCIS approves the OPT application, the applicant will still be eligible for the full 12-month period of employment authorization. If a student receives an approval of Form I-765 for less the requested period of OPT because the end date would have been more than 14 months beyond their graduation, they may request that USCIS issue a corrected EAD card providing the full period of requested employment authorization.

The second accommodation affects applicants whose OPT applications were rejected by USCIS and who are seeking to refile the applications. If the application was received from October 1, 2020, to May 1, 2021 and was rejected by USCIS, the applicant may refile the application, and USCIS will treat it as though it were accepted for processing on the date of receipt of the original application. Applications for OPT must be submitted to USCIS within certain time periods after the applicant’s school issues the recommendation for the OPT, so this accommodation means that applicants will not have to obtain a new recommendation from their school when resubmitting their OPT applications.

The third accommodation impacts applicants who have inadvertently submitted an OPT application that is missing one or more required signatures. USCIS would normally reject or deny applications that are missing required signatures. Under this temporary accommodation, USCIS will accept applications with missing signatures and issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) to allow the applicant to submit the required signatures.


Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Ian Love, who is a Partner at Global Immigration Associates, P.C. (www.giafirm.com), Envoy’s affiliated law firm.

Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.

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