USCIS Expands Premium Processing Eligibility to Certain F-1 OPT and STEM OPT Applications
Starting today, USCIS will accept Form I-907 premium processing requests for F-1 students with a pending Form I-765 employment authorization document (EAD) application if the student is filing for pre- or post-completion OPT, or for a STEM OPT extension. Starting April 3, the agency will accept premium processing requests from these students when their Form I-907 is filed concurrently with a Form I-765 employment authorization application. The Form I-907 fee for these newly eligible categories is $1,500, and the premium processing timeframe is 30 calendar days after USCIS receives all prerequisites for the adjudication. USCIS will accept both online and paper filings of Form I-907 for these F-1 EAD applications.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is now implementing premium processing service for certain F-1 students seeking an Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT employment authorization document (EAD) on Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. The premium processing fee for these newly eligible categories is $1,500, with a 30-day processing timeframe after application prerequisites are met. According to USCIS, it will accept Form I-907 premium processing requests for newly eligible F-1 applicants in two phases:
- Starting today, March 6, USCIS will accept Form I-907 for F-1 students who have a pending Form I-765, as long as they have filed under one of the following categories:
- (c)(3)(A) – pre-completion OPT
- (c)(3)(B) – post-completion OPT; or
- (c)(3)(C) – 24-month STEM OPT extension.
- Starting April 3, 2023, USCIS will accept premium processing requests for F-1 students filing under one of the above categories when their Form I-907 is filed concurrently with Form I-765.
For these newly eligible categories, USCIS will accept Form I-907 in either online or paper form.
This initiative is part of USCIS’s incremental expansion of premium processing to certain additional form types over a period of at least three years. In March 2022, USCIS issued a regulation as part of its actions to reduce backlogs and to provide certain relief to work permit holders. The rule was intended to implement legislation that was signed into law in October 2020 as part of the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act.
In February 2021, USCIS expanded premium service to E-3 petitions. In May 2022, the agency announced expansion of premium processing to certain pending EB-1 Multinational Executive and Manager and EB-2 National Interest Waiver petitions; then over the next eight months, incrementally expanded eligibility to all such petitions. With each announcement of the Form I-140 expansion, USCIS reiterated its plan to continue expanding premium processing to certain applicants filing Form I-765 and Form I-539 in its next phases. Today’s announcement continues that expansion, beginning with Form I-765 for certain F-1 students.
Further details on Form I-765 premium processing for F-1 OPT and STEM OPT
Under the premium processing policy for these new categories of applicants, USCIS has 30 days to take action on Form I-765 applications seeking F-1 OPT or STEM OPT. However, the controlling USCIS regulation provides that the processing clock will only begin to run upon the date USCIS receives “all prerequisites for adjudication” – meaning that the agency may not begin to count the 30-day processing timeframe until it determines that it has received all necessary documentation appropriate for the case type. Depending on the case type and its requirements, this means that applicants could wait longer than the specified 30-day timeframe to see action on their cases. If a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) is issued, a new 30-day period would begin once USCIS receives the applicant’s response to the RFE or NOID.
Also under the new policy, eligible applicants will be able to file Form I-907 requesting premium processing service in either electronic or paper form. In order to file a Form I-907 online, applicants must have a USCIS online account, which can be created on my.uscis.gov. According to USCIS, applicants who previously filed a paper Form I-765 and now wish to submit an electronic Form I-907 through their online USCIS account can reference their USCIS Account Access Notice, which contains an Online Access Code and details on linking their paper-filed case to their online USCIS account.
Future premium processing expansion to certain Forms I-539
USCIS has previously announced its plans to further expand premium processing to certain students and exchange visitors seeking to change into or from F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor status on Form I-539. According to USCIS, its anticipated timeline for this next expansion phase is:
- May 2023 – expansion to certain student and exchange visitors with pending Forms I-539
- June 2023 – expansion to certain students and exchange visitors filing initial Forms I-539
The agency may change its projected timelines at any point.
In the coming months, USCIS is expected to release more detail on premium processing expansion for certain students and exchange visitors seeking to change to or from F-1 or J-1 status on Form I-539.