USCIS Service Centers appear to be applying a more restrictive approach to F-1 OPT filing deadlines (Optional Practical Training), creating unexpected OPT denials, according to the AILA Students and Scholars Committee.
An F-1 Optional Practical Training application involves several deadlines:
Up until this time, if USCIS received an Optional Practical Training application more than 30 days after the DSO entered the OPT recommendation in SEVIS, the agency would generally send the applicant a Request for Evidence (RFE) requesting a new Form I-20 signed by the DSO. At that time, a DSO could reprint Form I-20 from SEVIS without entering a new OPT recommendation and sign it, and the student applicant could then submit it to USCIS.
However, USCIS appears to have changed its approach on this issue in some cases, apparently arguing that the regulations do not allow such an approach. In such cases, applications submitted more than 30 days after a DSO’s recommendation of OPT in SEVIS are now being denied.
In June 2012, USCIS officials stated that failure to timely file within 30 days of the date the DSO enters a recommendation will result in a denial of the application.
Therefore, to avoid a denial, a student must file it with USCIS within 30 days of the OPT recommendation in SEVIS. If a student is unable to submit Form I-765 and supporting I-20 to USCIS within 30 days of the OPT recommendation in SEVIS, the DSO should cancel the original OPT recommendation in SEVIS and enter a new recommendation. Issuance of a new Form I-20 will no longer suffice.