Keeping Track Once You’ve Submitted the OPT Application
What should I expect after sending my OPT application to USCIS?
Below, we have highlighted the different phases your application can go through.
When submitting the OPT application, students can complete and submit Form G-1145 (“e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance”) to request a text/email notification with a Receipt Number when USCIS accepts your application. USCIS will send you the e-notification within 24 hours after they accept your application.
Note: If you provided your US mobile number and are within the US while your OPT application is pending, you will receive a text and/or an email notification; however, if you are outside the US, USCIS will only send an email notification.
It will take approximately 2 weeks for USCIS to accept your application after you have shipped a complete OPT application to them. If you submitted Form G-1145, you would receive an e-notification approximately 2 weeks after you have shipped your OPT application. USCIS will also update their systems with your record – you can view your Case Status Online by entering the Receipt Number you received from USCIS in your e-notification.
At this phase, USCIS’ tracking tool should show that your “Case Was Received“ and list the date on which they received your application. If USCIS accepts your application, they will send a Receipt Notice (Form I-797C, Notice of Action) within 10 days of accepting your application to the US Mailing Address that you listed on Form I-765 as part of your OPT application.
While this notice (a letter) itself does not grant you any immigration benefit and cannot be used to travel or work in the U.S, it confirms that USCIS has received your OPT application and acts as a receipt of the OPT filing fees. It also contains a receipt number to help you track your case online – if you submitted Form G-1145 for e-notification of receipt of your application, this receipt number should match the receipt number in the e-notification that USCIS sent to you.
Note: please check every detail on this receipt notice (name, address, payment information and balance, etc.) very carefully – if you notice any mistakes on this receipt notice, you must contact your university’s Designated School Official (DSO) immediately to get any errors corrected.
USCIS rejected my OPT application - what does that mean and what are my options?
If your application is rejected by USCIS, the USCIS Lockbox (mailing) Facility will physically return your entire OPT application packet without sending it to a Service Center for processing. Common reasons for OPT applications getting rejected include, but are not limited to:
Your check, money order, credit card or other payment method failed (USCIS does not process your payment at the time of rejection)
You did not sign your Form I-765
Your OPT application package is missing several required documents
For the very first question on Form I-765, you did not select a reason for applying
You used an outdated edition of Form I-765 to complete your OPT application
Your case status online should be updated to “Case Was Rejected Because …” and list the reason for your case’s rejection. USCIS will send you Form I-797C, Notice of Action as the official rejection notice along with the rest of your application materials and fees to the US Mailing Address that you listed on Form I-765 as part of your OPT application.
Note: a rejection does not mean that you cannot reapply for OPT to obtain your EAD card. You must read the rejection notice very carefully and understand what went wrong the first time you submitted the OPT application, to ensure that the package is complete when you resubmit your application to USCIS. You must request another OPT I-20 from your DSO since you must have lapsed the 30-day window to submit your OPT application. You should include the rejection letter in your new application package and resubmit the application fee (USCIS should return your original payment). Given this delay, you may not be able to obtain a full 12 months of Post-Completion OPT since current USCIS rules state that the OPT End Date must be 14 months after the applicant’s Program Completion Date.
My online case status on USCIS’ tracker tool says “Case Was Received” – what happens after that?
USCIS receiving and accepting your application implies that you have provided complete and correct documentation and payment information to USCIS for processing your application.
While there’s no insight into the exact number of days USCIS takes to process your application, you can use USCIS’ Guidance on Processing Times to get a general sense of timing of other students’ applications.
Note: Contact an Onboard advisor to learn more about USCIS’ ongoing processing time.
If everything in your OPT application looks correct, USCIS will approve your OPT application (typically within a few months given current processing times) and update your case status to reflect “Case Was Approved”. The online case status will provide the date when USCIS approved your application and will confirm that USCIS has sent you an “Approval Notice”, another Form I-797C, Notice of Action letter which will be delivered to the US Mailing Address that you listed on Form I-765 as part of your OPT application.
Again, the Approval Notice does not grant you any immigration benefit and cannot be used to travel or work in the U.S. However, the Approval Notice is physical proof that USCIS has approved your OPT application for employment authorization and can be helpful since USCIS may not always provide timely case status updates in their online tracking tool.
My online case status reads “Request for Additional Evidence Notice Was Mailed” – what does this mean?
If USCIS needs additional documentation from you, they will send you a Request for Evidence (“RFE”) notice; this notice will be sent to the US Mailing Address that you listed on Form I-765 of your OPT application. An RFE letter from USCIS pertaining to your Post-Completion OPT application will explain exactly what is required to satisfy the RFE, as well as where (what USCIS mailing address) and how much time you have to respond by (“Response Date”). At this point, USCIS will also update your online case status to “Request for Additional Evidence Notice Was Mailed”.
You should prepare a cover letter addressing the RFE notice and include it in the package that you send back to USCIS. OPT-related RFE’s should be fairly straightforward and you can prepare a cover letter yourself with the help of our RFE Response Cover Letter Sample. If you need clarification on a specific request, you should contact your university’s DSO or seek help from an immigration attorney. Include the RFE notice, your cover letter and the requested documents in the package you prepare to ship to USCIS, with the RFE notice at the top of all other documents in the package. Do not submit more documents than necessary and choose a courier service that lets you track the delivery of your package – your delivery confirmation will prove that you responded within the specified timeframe.
Note: an RFE does not mean your OPT application is not being processed. USCIS has simply requested additional evidence to ensure that the application is fully evaluated before an EAD card is issued to you.
Once you submit the RFE response to USCIS, you should keep track of your case status online – USCIS will change your case status to “Response To USCIS’ Request for Evidence Was Received” when they receive your documents. If the RFE has been correctly satisfied, USCIS will continue processing your application.
USCIS Denied my OPT Application - what does that mean and what are my options?
Upon receiving and accepting your application, i.e. after your online case status reads “Case Was Received”, USCIS might deny your OPT application. A denial occurs when an adjudicator (USCIS officer reviewing your application) determines that you are unequivocally ineligible for OPT. Common reasons for OPT applications getting denied include, but are not limited to:
You submitted your OPT application to USCIS more than 30 days after the date your university’s DSO issued your OPT I-20
You’ve already been approved for OPT at the same degree level (Note: you are allowed only one OPT authorization per degree level)
You have not completed one academic year of full-time studies and do not meet the eligibility requirements to apply for OPT
You applied for OPT more than 60 days after your Program Completion Date
At this point, USCIS will update your online case status to “Decision Notice Mailed” and mention that your application has been denied. In this scenario, USCIS will not return your filing fee… USCIS will also send a “Decision Notice” to the US Mailing Address that you listed on Form I-765 as part of your OPT application. This letter will outline the reason you were denied and how you can appeal the decision. You should contact your university’s DSO or seek help from an immigration attorney to start the appeals process. USCIS has provided some additional information here on Appeals and Motions.
As long as you are within the eligible time window, a denial does not mean that you cannot reapply for OPT. You should read the denial decision notice very carefully to understand what disqualified you from applying for OPT. If you are still eligible to apply, you should request another OPT I-20 and resubmit the entire application. Given this delay, you may not be able to obtain the entirety of your 12-month Post-Completion OPT as current rules state that your OPT End Date must be 14 months after your Program Completion Date. If you are eligible to apply for OPT and resubmit a complete and correct application, USCIS will process your application, approve your case and issue your EAD card.
My online case status on USCIS’ tracker tool says “Case Was Approved” and USCIS sent the Approval Notice to the US Mailing Address I mentioned in my OPT application – what should I expect next?
Within a couple of days of USCIS approving your application, your online case status should be updated to reflect “New Card is Being Produced”. This confirms that your OPT application has been approved and your EAD card has been sent for printing.
Within a few days, your online case status should update to “Card Was Mailed to Me”. This indicates that USCIS has printed your EAD card and has shipped it to the US Mailing Address you listed on your OPT application. Based on current processing guidelines, it typically takes less than 2 weeks for your EAD card to be delivered.
Within 1-2 days, USCIS will update your case status to “Card Was Picked Up By The United States Postal Service” and provide you with a USPS tracking number. You must actively check your mailbox (or have someone else check the mailbox at the address you listed in your application) to ensure that you receive the EAD card in time.