Delayed Receipt Notices for OPT

USCIS Flexibility for OPT Applicants Received between October 1, 2020 – May 1, 2021

General Information

Read official information about the USCIS flexibility here and use the guidance in the Student Action section below for next steps. This page will be updated if we get more specific information. However, you should always refer to the USCIS site for official requirements. 

 

This flexibility applies only to OPT applications received by USCIS from October 1, 2020 – May 1, 2021. 

The three major provisions are as follows:  

  • Provision 1: 14month OPT Period Flexibility  
  • Provision 2: Refiling Following Rejection  
  • Provision 3: Missing or Deficient Signatures 

 

Provision 1: 14-Month OPT Period Flexibility

  • Provision 1 Policy:
    • To allow F-1 students to complete the full period of requested OPT (up to 12 months), USCIS will allow the 14-month period to start from the date of approval of the Form I-765 for OPT applications. Students who receive an EAD card that shows work authorization for less than 12 months may request a correction. 
      • Example: Your program completion was December 16, 2020. Your I-765 OPT application was filed on November 1, 2020. The OPT I-20 that was included with your I-765 application shows that your requested employment dates are February 14, 2021 – February 13, 2022. USCIS approved your application on March 3, 2021. Your EAD card shows that your authorized employment dates are March 3, 2021 – February 13, 2022 Since this gives you less than 12 months of work authorization, you can request a new EAD card. Once approved, the EAD card should indicate that your authorized employment dates are March 3, 2021 – March 2, 2022. 
  • Provision 1 Student Actions: 
    • Follow the instructions here. Go to Replace an EAD, then go to the If Your EAD Contains Incorrect Information because of a USCIS error section. 

 

Provision 2: Refiling Following Rejection 

  • Provision 2 Policy:
    • USICS will accept a refiled Form I-765 for OPT/STEM OPT if the application was filed from October 1, 2020 to May 1, 2021 and USCIS then rejected it. USCIS will consider the application filed on the original filing date. 
      • Example:  Your program completion was December 16, 2020. You filed your I-765 OPT Application on November 1, 2020. However, you submitted a check for an incorrect amount. You received a rejection notice from USCIS on February 20, 2021. Since you are past your 60day grace period, which ended on February 14, 2021, you would normally not be able to resubmit your application. However, since USCIS’s delayed receipt notice made you ineligible to refile your application before your grace period ended, you can refile your application by May 31, 2021. 
  • Provision 2:  Student Actions:

    By May 31, 2021, submit the following documents:

    • a new I-765 application
    • a new payment
    • a copy of your rejection notice
    • Any new required documents/information that you did not include with your original application. See your rejection notice to determine what was missing from your original application.
    • All supporting documents included in your original application that meets USCIS requirements, including the OPT I-20 that OIPS originally issued to you.

    You do not need to ask OIPS to issue a new OPT I-20 IF your original  I-765 OPT/STEM  OPT application was filed within 30 days of the DSO’s OPT recommendation or within 60 days of   the DSO’s STEM OPT recommendation.

    Follow address filing instructions on the Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765 to determine where to refile your application.

 

Provision 3: Missing or Deficient Signatures 

  • Provision 3 Policy:
    • If an I-765 OPT/STEM OPT application is missing the applicant’s signature only, USCIS will accept it and issue a Request for Evidence (RFE), not a rejection 
      • Example: Your program completion date was December 16, 2020. You submitted your I-765 OPT application. You submitted all required documents, but you forgot to sign your I-765. Normally, USCIS would reject your application. However, they will begin to issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) instead of a rejection. 
  • Provision 3 Student Actions: 
    • Follow the instructions that you receive on your Request for Evidence (RFE) including what information/documents to submit and where to send in your missing items. 

 

FAQ's

  1. Is USCIS allowing 14 months of OPT for students?
    • NoThe total time of work authorization is still 12 months. Only students who filed their  OPT application between October 12020  May 1, 2021, and then received an EAD card that showed less than 12 months of work authorization, can request a new EAD card. The new EAD card will not give students more than 12 months of work authorization, but it will allow them to adjust their work period, even if the end date is more than 14 months after their program completion date.
  2. I believe my application will be rejected because I forgot to submit an item or provided incorrect information or items.  I am past my grace period, but I did not receive a rejection notice.  Should I go ahead and refile?
    • USCIS specifically states that flexibility is for students who received a rejection notice. We recommend that you wait. If you receive a rejection notice for an application that was originally filed October 1, 2020 – May 1, 2021, you will have a new deadline of May 31, 2021 to refile your application. If you think your application will be rejected and you do not want to wait to receive your rejection notice, you can try to refile your application with supporting documentation, such as a carrier’s notification of delivery, showing that USCIS received your application sometime between October 1, 2021 to May 1, 2021. However, there is no guarantee that your application will be accepted. Before you decide on your next steps, you may want to contact an immigration lawyer.
  3. My application was denied, not rejected, but there was a significant delay in receiving the USCIS notice of denial. Can I refile my application?
    • USCIS specifically states the flexibility is for students who received a rejection notice, not a denial. You can try to refile your application, but there is no guarantee that you will be approved, especially if the circumstances which led to your denial have not changed.  If you decide to resubmit your application, you may want to consider including a letter stating that USCIS delayed sending the denial notice, which made you ineligible to resubmit your application before your grace period endedAlso include a copy of your denial notice, which will establish the timeframe that your application was received by USCIS. Before you decide on your next steps, you may want to contact an immigration lawyer.
  4. My rejection notice indicates that I should resubmit my application to an address that is not the same as the filing address indicated on the USCIS Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765 websiteWhich address should I use?
    • Contact USCIS to confirm the correct mailing address before you resubmit your application. 

Case Assistance from Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman

What is a Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman?

A CIS Ombudsman helps individuals who cannot resolve OPT/STEM OPT application problems directly with USCIS.

Who can ask for help?

  • Students who have waited for more than 90 days after filing their application.
  • Students who have tried to resolve their problem directly with USCIS first.
  • Students who have the following problems:
    • Failure to receive an I-765 receipt notice 90 days after filing an application.
    • Receipt of an OPT application rejection that arrives too late for you to refile your application since you are beyond your 60-day grace period.
    • Other issues might apply. Speak to an OIPS advisor for more information.

How can you ask for Case Assistance from the CIS Ombudsman?

  1. Gather copies of any documents that you sent or received from USCIS. You will be asked to submit this documentation. This is one of the reasons why you should contact USCIS first to resolve your problem.
  2. Contact the Ombudsman office by accessing Form DHS-7001.
  3. Read all of the instructions on the form, including the General Instructions.
  4. Complete all 13 sections of the form: Name; Contact Information; Identification Information; Application/Petition Information; Case Description; Prior Actions Taken to Remedy the Problem; Supporting Documentation; and Verification.

Go to the Contacting the Ombudsman page for more information. Note that the Ombudsman Office recommends that you submit a request for case assistance by using the Form DHS-7001.

USCIS February Update

USCIS has issued another statement stating they are continuing to experience delays issuing receipt notices at certain lockbox locations for F-1 students applying for OPT.  They have provided the following clarifications and reminders:

  • These delays will not affect the received date. All submissions are date stamped upon arrival at the Lockbox, so regardless of when the Lockbox processes your application, your received date will reflect the date it actually arrived at the Lockbox.
  • USCIS will not reject applications solely because they were filed at the lockbox address in use prior to the change to the filing address instructions announced on Jan. 8, 2021. USCIS encourages applicants filing Form I-765 to always check the form instructions on their website for the most up-to-date filing instructions.
  • If you have timely filed Form I-765 based on STEM OPT, and your post-completion OPT period expires while the application is pending, USCIS will automatically extend the employment authorization for 180 days. The Form I-20 endorsed by the designated school official recommending a STEM extension together with the expired Form I-766 employment authorization document (EAD) issued for post-completion OPT establishes identity and work authorization for purposes of documenting employment authorization.
  • USCIS recommends that you wait eight weeks before contacting them to inquire about your case status.

Read the full communication here.

OIPS is aware in the delay of USCIS Receipt Notice issuance from the USCIS Texas lockbox.  In a December message, USCIS stated:

The USCIS lockbox facilities have received a significant increase in filings in recent weeks. This increase, along with facility capacity restrictions necessary to protect the health and safety of the lockbox workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, is causing significant delays for processing receipt notices. We continue to work to minimize delays. Once we process your submission, we will review your package.

If you properly filed your form, we will send a receipt notice to the mailing address provided on your form, normally within 30 days. If your submission is incomplete or improperly filed, we will reject it per current procedures. 

 

Many students have reported that despite this message, it is taking longer than 30 days to receive a receipt notice.  In response, our office has compiled some tips for managing the situation. 

Students applying for Post-Completion OPT or STEM OPT Extension

  • Keep your tracking information for the shipment of your application to USCIS. 
    • This information will show when your application was received by USCIS in case any questions come up in the future. 
    • Do not lose this information. 
  • Contact your U.S. Representative in Congress for help getting your receipt number. 
    • Find your representative here. 
  • Sign the petition 
    • Petitioning is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and applies to all persons, not just U.S. citizens. 
  • Try contacting the USCIS Lockbox email at lockboxsupport@uscis.dhs.gov 
    • It is highly likely that you will not be able to get an answer without a receipt number. 

Students applying for STEM OPT Extension only

  • Employment authorization period for a 24-month OPT extension begins on the day after the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT employment authorization and ends 24 months thereafter, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved. (See 8 CFR 274a.12(b)(6)(iv)) 
    • You can provide your employer the Code of Federal Regulations, citing the above passage to show your STEM OPT Extensions begins automatically after the end of your OPT. 
  • Students are authorized to continue employment for up to 180 days after the expiration of the post-completion OPTif they have timely and properly filea STEM OPT Extension application with USCIS. (See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C)) 
    • You can show your employer the Code of Federal Regulations, citing the above passage in combination with your tracking information to prove that you have timely and properly filed you STEMP OPT Extension application. 
  • Students should update their I-9 with their employer. 
    • You can show your expired EAD and signed STEM OPT I-20.  Your employer should enter the following information under List A in Section 2 of the I-9: 
      • EAD document title; 
      • EAD document number; 
      • Date the EAD expired in the expiration date space; and 
      • “180-day ext.” in the Additional Information field. 
    • If your employer has additional questions about what kinds of documentation are acceptable for I-9 purposes during the 180-day period, they can visit the USCIS Form M-274 Handbook for Employers or USCIS I-9 Q&A. 
  • Additionally, resources for you and your employer regarding STEM OPT are found at the STEM OPT HUB.