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USCIS Announces Premium Processing Expansion for F-1 OPT and STEM OPT EAD Applications


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has announced an expansion of "premium processing" for F-1 foreign students who are seeking employment authorization related to Optional Practical Training (OPT) and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) OPT extensions. This is part of a larger effort by USCIS to increase efficiency through expansion of the premium processing option, as well as recognition of the importance of STEM talent to the U.S. labor market.

F-1 students must file applications for Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) on Form I-765 to get their one year of authorized work after graduation or two years of the STEM extension after that. Many times these applications take many months to be adjudicated, delaying start dates for recent graduates. Premium processing is a service the USCIS offers to other types of cases but has previously not offered for I-765 applications for students. To request premium processing, the student must file Form I-907 along with an additional fee. However, this is only available to those I-765 applications in the following categories:

  • (c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT
  • (c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT
  • (c)(3)(C) – 24-Month Extension of OPT for STEM students

The premium processing option for relevant F-1 student I-765 applications is now available as of the dates below:

  • Beginning March 6, USCIS will accept Form I-907 requests for F-1 students who already have an existing pending employment authorization application (Form I-765).
  • Beginning April 3, USCIS will accept Form I-907 requests for any F-1 students when filed concurrently with new employment authorization applications.

The premium processing fee for F-1 OPT and STEM OPT employment authorization is $1,500 and guarantees a response by USCIS in 30 days. The response is not guaranteed to be an approval, just the first review by the USCIS. This is in contrast to the standard processing time, which is currently at least several months, and can fluctuate dramatically based on workload. The I-765 may be filed on paper forms by mail or electronically by creating a MyUSCIS account online at https://myaccount.uscis.gov/.

In the event an employee’s F-1 OPT is coming to an end with no available extensions, there are alternatives available from the H-1B lottery and beyond. As always, we recommend you contact your immigration attorney to best plan for your company’s immigration needs.

To answer questions about employment authorization for students on OPT or STEM OPT extensions, or to receive guidance in planning specific visa strategy for your employees, please contact a member of the Quarles immigration team, including:

Grant Sovern: (608) 283-2668 / grant.sovern@quarles.com

Matt Mauntel-Medici: (312) 715-2739 / matt.mauntel-medici@quarles.com

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