Due to various factors, USCIS has experienced extensive delays in processing F-1 OPT applications.

Given substantial delays in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service's (USCIS) issuance of receipt notices and adjudication of I-765 applications for employment authorization by F-1 students seeking optional practical training (OPT), USCIS is making it easier for students to complete their 12-month OPT within the requisite 14 months.

F-1 students seeking post-graduation work authorization may apply for OPT for up to 12 months on Form I-765, and by regulation must complete these 12 months of OPT within 14 months of the end of their program of studies. Students may submit Form I-765 within 90 days prior to completion of their program. In the past, students would commonly receive the OPT employment authorization card within two to three months of filing.

However, due to various factors (including COVID-19 restrictions, postal service delays and an uptick in application volume), USCIS has experienced extensive delays in processing F-1 OPT applications. Therefore, on February 26, 2021, USCIS announced that for applications received on or after October 1, 2020, and through May 1, 2021, it would change the calculation method for determining the 14-month period.

Specifically, the 14-month period will now begin on the date of approval of the application?which could be many months after submission?rather than the generally much earlier end of the student's program. In addition, F-1 students who receive an OPT employment authorization card that?due to delayed issuance?does not reflect the full duration requested, can request a corrected card, presumably via the USCIS online e-request function or by calling USCIS customer service. This is a welcome relief for student employees and their employers, who would otherwise have great difficulty in completing the OPT in a timely manner.

Originally published March 1, 2021

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