There is good news for F-1 student visa holders. In response to recent litigation challenging the significant delays in the issuance of receipt notices for F-1 EAD (employment authorization) applications, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is extending certain flexibility for F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) who file Form I-765 work authorization applications between October 1, 2020, and October 31, 2021. The USCIS has acknowledged the delays in issuing receipt notices and has cited COVID-19 public health measures, an increase in filings, and postal delays as reasons for the development.
USCIS will apply the following relaxed policies to F-1 OPT applications received between October 1, 2020, and October 31, 2021:
1. 14-month OPT period: F-1 students will be permitted to complete their post-completion 12-month OPT period within 14 months of their EAD approval date, rather than within 14 months of their F-1 program end date under the standard rules. Those who receive an OPT approval for less than the full amount of time they are entitled to under the relaxed policy may request a correction from USCIS.
2. Refiling after rejection: Applicants whose timely filed F-1 OPT and STEM OPT applications were rejected will be permitted to refile their applications. These applications must be received by November 30, 2021, in order to be treated as filed on the original date.
3. RFE for missing or deficient signature: USCIS will issue a request for evidence instead of denying F-1 OPT applications that contain missing or deficient signatures if they were received by the agency during the relevant timeframe. However, the USCIS policy permitting rejection of applications with missing or deficient signatures remains in place, so applications should be checked for sufficient signatures prior to filing.
These flexibilities do not change the requirements for F-1 students to submit timely and properly completed EAD applications. In addition, pursuant to the recent court order, OPT applications received by USCIS through October 31, 2021, may be filed up to 120 days before the F-1 program end date, extended from 90 days under the standard rules.
We, at Emandi Law Firm, are closely monitoring developments in this regard and will keep you posted with further updates.