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  • Emily McIntosh

Extended OPT flexibility for international students

Updated: Mar 6, 2021

USCIS announced on February 26, 2021 that they are extending flexibilities for filing I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization or EAD). These flexibilities only apply to applications received between October 01, 2020 and May 01, 2021 (both dates inclusive).

14-month period flexibility

Historically, international students are required to complete their 12-month OPT within 14-months of their graduation date. Because of the delays at USCIS, the agency has now extended the 14-month period to start from the date of approval of I-765 (EAD application) and not from the date of graduation.

Full amount of OPT time

Starting February 26, 2021 USCIS will approve applications for OPT for the time recommended by the DSO (designated school official) on the I-20. International students (on F-1 visa) who received an approval for less time because of the 14-month period requirement (based on the graduation date) can now apply for a corrected new end date.

Refile application if rejected

OPT applications that were filed timely but were rejected due to USCIS' delays may now refile their applications. USCIS will accept a refiled I-765 for OPT or STEM OPT if:

  • The original, timely filed application was received between October 01, 2020 and May 01, 2021 (both dates inclusive).

  • USCIS rejected the timely filed application

Note - the refiled applications must be received by May 31, 2021.

Note - International students don't need to obtain a new I-20 with updated OPT dates, as long as they submitted the original application for OPT within 30 days of DSO's recommendation and for STEM OPT within 60 days of DSO's recommendation.

Note - Do not forget to include a copy of the rejection notice with the refiled application.


Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a WayLit-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.

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