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Reminder: USCIS Strictly Enforces OPT Filing Deadlines

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) strictly enforces the requirement to file the optional practical training (OPT) application within 30 days of the date the designated school official (DSO) enters the OPT recommendation into the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record, and within 60 days of the date the DSO enters the recommendation for the STEM OPT extension into the SEVIS record. F-1 students should be familiar with the deadlines for applying for OPT, and those pursuing STEM degrees also should be aware of the STEM OPT application deadline.

Deadlines for Filing Initial OPT Application
There are several deadlines a post-completion OPT applicant should be aware of to ensure the application is not summarily denied by the USCIS. As noted above, the initial OPT application must be submitted within 30 days of the recommendation being entered into the student’s SEVIS record. In addition, the F-1 student may apply up to 90 days before the academic program end date, but no later than 60 days after the program end date. Students should be mindful of both the general filing period and the 30-day deadline for filing following the DSO’s entry of recommendation. This means that the student should not only make sure that the OPT application is filed within the general filing timeframe, but that it is within 30 days of the OPT recommendation of the DSO, as recorded in the student’s SEVIS record.

Deadlines for STEM OPT Extensions
If the foreign national qualifies for STEM OPT, the application may be filed up to 90 days before the current OPT expires, but no later than before the current OPT expires. As noted above, the application must be submitted within 60 days of the date the DSO enters the recommendation for the OPT into the SEVIS record.

New OPT Application can be Problematic After Denial
Many students face obstacles to the re-filing of a denied OPT application. Even if a denial is received in time to allow for re-filing, there may be problems obtaining new supporting I-20s. The denial decision entered by the USCIS into the SEVIS record may prevent DSOs from issuing new I-20s with the new OPT recommendations. The required steps may create additional difficulty for the affected students, as this takes these cases beyond the generally allowed filing deadline.

It is extremely important for F-1 students to be familiar with filing requirements and deadlines. A denial in these cases often arrives well beyond the time during which a refiling is possible. Students with questions about OPT and related matters may wish to consult a knowledgeable attorney. We at the Murthy Law Firm have a former DSO and other experienced attorneys on our team who can provide guidance and options.

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