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Online Filing Now Available For F-1 Students Applying for OPT Employment Authorization

Slowly, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is moving into the current century and allowing more and more applications for immigration benefits to be filed online. Currently, there are eleven forms that USCIS has made available for online filing, with certain limitations.

Most recently, USCIS has announced that students in F-1 status who would like to request Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment authorization have the option to file their OPT application online on USCIS’s website.

OPT is employment authorization that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. This announcement applies to anyone requesting Pre-Completion OPT, Post-Completion OPT, or a 24-month OPT Extension for individuals with qualifying Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) degrees.

Online filing allows applicants to submit forms electronically, pay fees online, receive USCIS Notices online instead of waiting for them to arrive in the mail, track and check the status of their case online, and respond to Requests for Evidence.

Another major benefit of online filing is that applicants do not need to worry about mailing or shipping a physical package, or potential shipment delays. This is important because applications for OPT must be filed within a short window of time, and USCIS will not consider them filed until they are actually received by USCIS. Missing that deadline, even by one day, will likely cause the application to be denied.

The traditional method of filing an OPT Application on paper, and submitting it to USCIS via the mail or a courier such as FedEx, remains available.

Alexander Farquhar
Senior Associate Attorney, Dallas, Texas
David Swaim & Associates, P.C.