OPT/STEM OPT Receipts: Extensive Delays with USCIS
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is experiencing nationwide delays with receipting OPT/STEM OPT applications. Delays of up to 4-8 weeks are now common. USCIS will use the day of your application’s arrival at their service center as the date of receipt for all applications. For example, if your application arrived at the USCIS service center on November 4, 2020* but still does not have a receipt number as of December 8, 2020, your case was still logged as having properly arrived at USCIS on November 4, 2020.
The IPO does not have the ability to increase the speed at which the USCIS lockbox is processing applications, or speed up the overall process. Nor can we track your application with USCIS.
If it has been more than 6-weeks since your application arrived at USCIS and your case still has not been receipted, you can e-mail the USCIS “lockbox” (they process the incoming applications) at lockboxsupport[at]uscis.dhs[dot]gov. If you receive no additional information after waiting the noted time frame on the lockbox e-mail, contact your IPO advisor for next steps. You should not assume a delayed receipt notice implies that there is a problem with your application or it will be rejected.
These USCIS delays are also impacting non-OPT/STEM OPT applications such as J-1 dependent employment authorization, change of status applications (I-539 application form), as well as permanent residency (“green card”) applications.
*Always remember to request US Postal Service or FedEx/UPS tracking on anything you send to the U.S. Government so that you have proof of receipt.
If your OPT is expiring soon and you have applied to STEM OPT, please note that current F-1 regulations state that STEM OPT only has to be timely filed in order to continue working. F-1 regulations do not require a USCIS receipt or that the case be in pending status. USCIS states that the expired OPT EAD plus your updated I-20 with STEM OPT endorsement should be sufficient in order to update your employer’s I-9 work authorization paperwork.
The IPO recommends that you discuss this with your employer’s Human Resources office or other hiring authority if your initial 12-month OPT is expiring soon.