ISSS currently advises you NOT to file your OPT/STEM OPT application online.
What is the new option to file online?
F-1 students must complete the Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and mail it to USCIS with supporting documentation (including an OPT/STEM OPT I-20 issued by ISSS) to apply for OPT/STEM OPT. USCIS recently introduced an option to file the application online instead of by mail.
What has USCIS said about online filing?
- F-1 students applying for pre-completion, post-completion, or STEM OPT can choose to file online instead of by mail.
- Students filing online will be asked to upload Form I-765 and all supporting documentation.
- Application adjudication time will be the same for paper and online applications.
Is a biometric services appointment required?
- F-1 students applying online for OPT or STEM OPT may need to attend a biometric services appointment before their OPT/STEM OPT can be approved. This normally requires a separate fee and requires the student to travel to a local application support center (ASC) to attend the appointment.
- In their March 31 webinar, USCIS mentioned significant delays in biometrics appointment processing due to COVID-19. Social distancing measures at the application support centers limit the number of appointments they can take.
- USCIS has not clearly addressed whether F-1 students applying for OPT/STEM OPT need to attend a biometric services appointment. Please note that filing an incomplete or incorrect application (for example, by not including a biometrics fee if one is required) could result in a denial of your OPT/STEM OPT application.
Our advice: don’t file online.
ISSS currently recommends against filing online for the following reasons:
- There is a lack of clarity about biometric services appointments, which could potentially complicate or jeopardize a student’s application.
- Online filing is new and we have yet to see successful cases. There may be other unexpected challenges to filing online.
How to apply for OPT/STEM OPT
If you choose to file online, you do so at your own risk. ISSS advises you to mail your application to USCIS. Any student applying for OPT or STEM OPT (whether filing online or by mail) first needs to obtain an OPT/STEM OPT I-20 from ISSS.
- Request an OPT I-20 and apply for OPT via our website
- Request a STEM OPT I-20 and apply for STEM OPT via our website