U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced flexible measures today for foreign students affected by delayed receipt notices for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. The measures will apply only to applications received on or after Oct. 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021.

Key Points:

  • Flexibility on 14-month OPT period. USCIS will give F-1 students 14 months from the date of Form I-765 approval to complete their 12 months of post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). Normally, students have 14 months from the date of graduation to complete up to 12 months of training. F-1 students requesting post-completion OPT who receive approval of Form I-765 for less than the full amount of time requested because of the delays, can request a correction from USCIS.
  • Refiling following rejection. USCIS will accept a refiled Form I-765 for OPT and STEM OPT if the original application was (1) received within the applicable time frame (Oct. 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021) and (2) USCIS rejected the application. This measure was put in place because some applicants had missed their window to refile because of the delays. More information on refiling following a rejection is available here.
  • Missing or Deficient Signatures. USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) rather than a denial if the lockbox accepts a Form I-765 application for OPT or STEM OPT with a missing or deficient signature. Applicants will then be given the opportunity to respond and provide the required signature or correct the deficiency in question.

Background: USCIS has recently reported delays in the issuance of receipt notices for Form I-765 for OPT for F-1 students. The agency says the delays are because of COVID-19 protocols, an increase in certain filings and postal delays, among other factors. The agency said it is implementing the flexible measures to mitigate the impact of the delays on applicants for OPT.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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