USCIS recently announced certain changes to the OPT work authorization rules. Most importantly, USCIS changed the deadline until when does the OPT employment have to be completed (14 months from approval of the I-756 petition) and also gives you an option to re-file the work authorization petition if it was rejected by USCIS for any reason.
If you are currently in the U.S. on an F-1 visa and you have recently applied for an F-1 OPT work authorization card, you may be still waiting for the I-765 Receipt notice and you may be wondering if you will be able to take advantage of the full 12-month OPT period of employment.
When does the OPT employment have to be completed?
Under the F-1 rules, after you finish school you may participate in up to 12 months of post-completion OPT (but USCIS will deduct any time if you engaged in a pre-completion OPT). The post completion OPT must be completed within 14 months from the completion of your studies.
Due to COVID-19, there have been substantial backlogs at USCIS lockbox facilities (the OPT work authorization applications are filed at USCIS lockbox facilities) and it has been taking USCIS lockbox facilities several weeks to cash the checks for the government filing fee, issue a Receipt Notice, and it has been taking USCIS longer than usual to approve the work authorization applications.
Starting February 26, 2021, USCIS announced that the 14-month period during which the OPT has to be completed will start from the approval of the I-765 work authorization petition. This is a great news for all international students, as this means that they can still take advantage of the full post completion OPT period.
Option to re-file your I-765 petition if it was rejected by USCIS
Additionally, if your work authorization was rejected for any reason by the USCIS lockbox facility, you will have a chance to re-file it if:
- The original, timely filed application was received in the period from October 1, 2020 until May 1, 2021, and
- USCIS subsequently rejected it.
Your new application will have to be received by USCIS by May 31, 2021.
Additionally, if your I-765 petition was missing a signature/had deficient signature, USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence instead of denying the petition.
All these rules are great news for international students who want to apply for a work authorization and want to take the maximum advantage of the OPT program, but have to face delays cause by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Please click here to find out if you can have an unpaid internship on an OPT status.
Please click here to find out what is the difference between OPT and CPT.
Please click here to find out what is a Cap-gap extension.
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