The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced the expansion of premium processing for certain F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) and F-1 students seeking Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) OPT extensions who have a pending Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and wish to request a premium processing upgrade.
International students in the US can gain on-the-job learning experience by participating in the training opportunities provided by the country. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program allows students with an F-1 visa to gain on-job expertise directly related to their major. A student must complete the CPT program before graduation. One can participate in either part-time (20 hours or less a week) or full-time (20 hours or more a week) CPT. However, if students work full-time for 12 months in CPT, they will be ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
OPT program allows international students with an F-1 visa to work up to 12 months concerning their study major. A student can take part in OPT program after completing their first academic year. OPT can be completed both during or after the studies, but a student can work only for 12 months under the OPT program.
A non-immigrant F-1 student with a degree in either STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields and working on OPT can apply for a STEM OPT extension. As per this program, students are eligible for a 24-month extension after completing their OPT. However, DHS requires a 60-day grace period between the completion of an initial post-completion OPT and a STEM OPT extension.
International students in F-1 non-immigrant status who wish to participate in OPT must obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS before they are authorized to work. The student cannot begin employment until the date indicated on this EAD.
Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, is a USCIS form used to request faster processing of Form I-129, Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker, Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, and certain classifications of Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. The online filing of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, is now also available to certain F-1 students seeking OPT and F-1 students seeking STEM OPT extensions with a pending Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and wish to request a premium processing upgrade. The agency also added that it would accept the latest paper version of Form I-907 by mail.
USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou stated, “The availability of premium processing for certain F-1 students, in addition to the ease of online filing, will streamline the immigration experience for a great many international students.”
Premium processing expansion for certain F-1 students will occur in a phased manner. Students requesting premium processing should ensure they do not file before these dates:
Beginning March 6, USCIS will accept Form I-907 requests, filed either via paper form or online, for certain F-1 students who already have a pending Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, if they are filing under one of the following categories:
(c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT;
(c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT; and
(c)(3)(C) – 24-Month Extension of OPT for STEM students.
Beginning April 3, USCIS will accept Form I-907 requests, filed either via paper form or online, for F-1 students in the above categories when filed together with Form I-765.
Note: USCIS will reject premium processing requests for a pending Form I-765 if received before March 6, and will reject any premium processing request for an initial or concurrently filed Form I-765 that is received before April 3.
In order to file Form I-907 online, an applicant must first create a USCIS online account. This account provides a convenient and secure method to submit forms, pay fees, and track the status of any USCIS immigration request throughout the adjudication process. There is no cost to set up a USCIS online account, which offers a variety of features, including the ability to communicate with USCIS through a secure inbox and respond to Requests for Evidence online.
Applicants who previously filed a paper Form I-765 and wish to file Form I-907 online to request premium processing should reference the USCIS Account Access Notice they received for the Online Access Code and details on how to link their paper-filed cases to their online account, or they will not be able to file Form I-907 online and will need file a paper Form I-907 with the Chicago lockbox.
As previously announced by the agency, the expansion of premium processing is part of USCIS’ efforts to increase efficiency and reduce burdens to the overall immigration system. The move is likely to benefit several Indian students already in the US on F-1 visas seeking temporary employment directly related to their major area of study.
Several immigration experts consider the premium processing and online filing as great news for international students who have been facing long wait times for their OPT approvals. This announcement to avail premium processing services has come as a relief to F-1 students seeking to obtain their EADs but had their Form I-765s pending.