USCIS Expands Premium Processing to Pending OPT and STEM OPT Effective Immediately

Starting March 6, 2023, USCIS began accepting premium processing requests for F-1 students with pending I-765, Applications for Employment Authorization, seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) and seeking science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) OPT extensions. On April 3, 2023, USCIS will begin accepting premium processing requests for F-1 students applying for OPT and STEM OPT when the Form I-907 is filed concurrently with the Form I-765.

In March 2022, USCIS announced its plan to incrementally expand premium processing service for certain immigration benefit requests in a phased approach—specifically, for certain requests filed on Forms I-539, I-765, and I-140.

Premium processing is requested by filing a Form I-907 and relevant filing fee with the USCIS service center processing the petition. Currently, the premium processing filing fee is $2,500 USD.

The premium processing turnaround time for a Form I-765 for F-1 students seeking OPT or STEM OPT extensions will be 30 calendar days. Notably, the premium processing turnaround time for most immigration benefit requests – including nonimmigrant petitions filed on Form I-129 and EB-1A Extraordinary Ability, EB-1B Outstanding Researchers, and PERM-based I-140 Immigrant Visa Petitions – is 15 calendar days, and the premium processing turnaround time for EB-1C Multinational Executive and Manager and EB-2 NIW I-140 Petitions is 45 calendar days for USCIS to respond.

Under a proposed rule published by the agency on January 4, 2023, USCIS would revise its interpretation of the premium processing timeframe from calendar days to business days, which means (if the rule becomes final) the standard premium processing will increase from 2 weeks to 3 weeks, and the processing time for a Form I-765 for F-1 students seeking OPT or STEM OPT extensions will become 30 business days, which could take up to 6 weeks. This is still dramatically faster than standard processing times, but nonetheless an increase that companies and sponsored workers should keep in mind.

Notably, F-1 students in these categories will be able to file the Form I-907 via the paper form, or electronically through their myUSCIS accounts online.

Reminder: USCIS automatically extends employment authorization by 180 days for F-1 individuals who have timely filed their Form I-765 to extend work authorization based on STEM OPT. If a student files their STEM OPT extension application on time but their OPT work authorization expires while their STEM OPT extension is pending, they will have an automatic 180-day extension of work authorization