Reminder: USCIS Enforces 30-Day OPT Filing Rule

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). The Murthy Law Firm continues to receive calls from students with OPT denials due to filing their OPT applications with I-20 forms that contain recommendations outside of the required 30 days. An explanation of the rule and its interpretation by the USCIS is provided here.

USCIS Strict Enforcement on the 30-Day Filing Rule

That the OPT application must be filed within 30 days after the DSO’s recommendation is made and recorded in the student’s SEVIS record is not a new requirement. However, historically, the USCIS was not consistently enforcing this regulation. This changed in September 2012 following a review of policies and procedures, which revealed an inconsistent approach in applying the regulations. Thereafter, according to the USCIS, the regulation containing the 30-day filing requirement has been consistently enforced.

As part of implementing uniform enforcement of this regulation, applications that do not comply with this requirement are denied without a request for evidence (RFE). The reason for this is that there is no way to overcome the problem by submitting additional evidence – making an RFE pointless. Instead, by denying the application outright, it is hoped that the students may receive the denial in time to submit a new OPT application that complies with all regulatory requirements.

Deadlines for Filing OPT Application

In addition to the requirement that the OPT application be submitted within 30 days after the recommendation is entered into the student’s SEVIS record, it is important to comply with other filing requirements related to timing. With regard to post-completion OPT, the students have a fairly substantial filing window. Students may file for post-completion OPT 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 Designated School Official’s (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.

New OPT Application can be Problematic After Denial

Many students face obstacles to the refiling of a denied OPT application. Even when denials are 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 prevents 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.

Conclusion

Even though the USCIS has been strictly enforcing the 30-day filing deadline for OPT applications for several years, many students  are not familiar with this requirement and continue to make the mistake of filing OPT applications more than 30 days after the date of the OPT recommendation. It is extremely important that students become familiar with these filing requirements and all filing deadlines. The denials in these cases often arrive well beyond the time during which a refiling is possible. Students who are awaiting OPT decisions should double check their applications. Students who will file for OPT, in the future should plan ahead and familiarize themselves with these requirements. 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.

This NewsBrief was originally published 28.Oct.2012, and has been updated for MurthyDotCom readers.

 

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.