USCIS Service Centers are taking a more restrictive approach to filing deadlines for foreign student (F-1) Optional Practical Training (OPT) applications, which, in turn has resulted in denials. Because there are several deadlines to consider in handling an OPT application, foreign students must be vigilant about closely coordinating with their designated student officer (DSO) during a now critical 30-day window.
First, the deadlines. For OPT, a student must file his or her work authorization application (Form I-765) up to 90 days prior to the program end-date and no later than 60 days after the program end-date. The student also must file Form I-765 with USCIS within 30 days of the date the DSO enters the OPT recommendation into his or her SEVIS record, and the student’s Form I-20, submitted with Form I-765 requesting OPT, must be endorsed by a DSO within the past 30 days.
Until recently, when USCIS received an OPT application more than 30 days after the DSO entered the OPT recommendation in SEVIS, it would send the applicant a Request for Evidence (RFE) requiring a new Form I-20 signed by the DSO. The DSO could simply reprint the I-20 from SEVIS (without entering a new OPT recommendation in SEVIS) and sign it, and the student could submit it to USCIS. However, USCIS has recently taken the position that applications submitted more than 30 days after the DSO’s OPT recommendation in SEVIS cannot be approved and will be denied instead. To avoid an OPT denial, students who are unable to submit Forms I-765 and I-20 to USCIS within 30 days of the OPT recommendation in SEVIS should request that their DSO cancel the original OPT recommendation in SEVIS and enter a new recommendation. Simply issuing a new Form I-20, which was acceptable until recently, will no longer suffice.