International students look forward to studying in the USA because of their extensive study programs and hands-on work experience through OPT jobs. The students on F-1 visa status are available to look into their eligibility for OPT. To get jobs, one must have a valid OPT EAD which is very necessary for documenting your authorization to work in the USA in the field of your study. While getting your EAD is quite simple with an easy documentation process, there are times when USCIS calls you for an OPT RFE. To get an RFE on OPT is to present documents and indulge in various legalities. It can be a hassle.
Especially as an international student, it is tough to handle legalities that involve a deep check on one’s identities. While this is not an issue if you have maintained your F-1 status and your identity lawfully. That being said, if one tends to the OPT RFE reasons, then one will be able to come out unscathed. This article is all about how to handle their OPT Extension RFE.
What is OPT?
OPT is an abbreviation for Optional Practical Training. It is provided to students who are in their F-1 visa status. If you come under the eligibility criteria of OPT, then you can apply for OPT EAD. With OPT EAD, you may work up to 12 months in your area of study.
This EAD can be used during the course of your study program, it is called pre-completion OPT. While it can be used after the completion of your course, it is called post-completion OPT. You don’t need to be paid during your OPT. That is, your OPT job can be a paid or unpaid internship, job, etc.
What is STEM OPT Extension?
OPT Extension also goes by another name, STEM OPT Extension. This extension is applicable for only selected fields. These fields belong to the category of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It also has a strict requirement i.e employers must be a part of E-Verify. Unlike OPT Jobs, STEM OPT jobs are compulsorily paid jobs. These jobs require special training programs that the employer needs to present to USCIS to showcase how they will develop and train the individual concerned.
Your employer has to submit Form I-983 to the authorities to show that they are employers in the jobs of the same field as that of your area of study. While OPT is of 12-month duration, STEM OPT is of 24-month duration.
What is OPT RFE?
The officials need to ask for all the documents for verifying you as an individual, your employer as a verified E-Verify member, and whether the job is related to your field of study as well as to check whether it comes under STEM.
While it may go well for most, some candidates who submitted their Form I-765 to the USCIS might receive an RFE. RFE is an abbreviation for Request for Evidence. This request comes in form of a letter from the USCIS asking you to present extra details to verify you and if found correct, present you with your extension.
If you receive an RFE in any case, it simply means there is some detail missing in your application that needs to be looked at.
What does OPT RFE or OPT Extension RFE contain?
As it is a letter requesting your documents for verification, it contains the detail that the authorities need to proceed with your application and the deadline by which you must submit the same. As soon as an RFE is issued, your application goes under suspension until you have clarified the USCIS with the needed information.
Various OPT RFE Reasons and How To Avoid It:
The USCIS might issue an RFE for many different reasons. However, there are a few common reasons why an RFE might be issued. After completing Form I-765, check it carefully to avoid creating mistakes and ensure that you have included all of the types of documentation that you might need.
Here are some common reasons which can bring you an RFE along with the ways to handle them:
- RFE for not matching the specifications in your photo
While providing your photo for STEM OPT extension, it has to meet certain criteria. These criteria are specified by the authorities as shown here. In the case that these specifications are not met, you are likely to receive an RFE. You can respond to it by sending professionally taken photos.
- RFE to ensure your class attendance for the required period for CPT
This is mostly to check whether you attended your classes during your CPT. If you get an RFE with this description, you might be asked to submit tuition proof, attendance proof, Identity card, transcript, etc.
- RFE for proof of financial loss
If you put in a request to expedite your application in case of a financial issue that you and your family are facing, USCIS sends you an RFE so that you can revert to them with proper proof so that they can make the further adjustments.
- RFE for Form I-20
This is an important form for STEM OPT extension. The DSO of your school endorses your form while entering OPT recommendations in the SEVIS system. You might receive an RFE if this document is missing.
- RFE to check if employment is in your area of study
OPT employment can only be provided in the jobs that are related to an individuals’ area of study. In the case of non-clarity regarding this issue, USCIS will send in an RFE to verify whether the employment work matches your major. You might need to present your training plan, job details, etc.
- RFE to check course work completion
This RFE is raised if USCIS has any inkling of doubt towards your course completion. Especially in the case of Post-completion OPT, one has to submit their proof of course completion for OPT EAD to be cleared.
- RFE to check on OPT employment
STEM OPT extension is provided to only those individuals who have worked for OPT jobs in their major. In case of any doubts about your OPT employment, USCIS will put in an RFE. This can be cleared by providing salary stubs, letters from employers, etc.
- RFE to check accrued days of unemployment
Students are only allowed 90 days of unemployment. In case of any doubts about this, authorities put up an RFE. In such a scenario, you must talk with your employer and present a proper detail of your work showcasing that you have not crossed the maximum limit.
- RFE for an unsigned check
Sometimes, it might happen that you forgot to sign the cheque. In this case too, USCIS out an RFE. You can easily cover it by sending a signed cheque.
- RFE in case of non-matching E-Verify numbers
While inputting the E-Verify number of your employer, you might have written the wrong one. In this case, you will receive an RFE to re-establish the E-Verify number of your employer.
What is OPT RFE response time?
With every RFE request, you will have to respond to RFE within a timeframe (30 to 90 days) to present the required information for USCIS so that the immigration official adjudicating your case will have enough evidence to make a favorable decision. The time from when you receive the request to the deadline is OPT RFE response time or we can say OPT RFE processing time which is usually 30 to 90 days from the date RFE is generated.
What happens if you don’t respond to an OPT RFE?
If you receive an RFE, you must respond. If you ignore the RFE, it will cause more troubles in your approval. The USCIS will then make its decision based on the information that they already have. Since the RFE indicates that your application is not complete, your OPT employment authorization application will likely be denied if you fail to respond.
Once the OPT RFE response time deadline arrives, the processing will resume. You might then expect to hear about the decision on your application in about 60 days or can be more in some cases.
Maintaining and Submitting Evidences: Tips to Handle an OPT RFE
If you receive an RFE, you will have three options for addressing it within the specified time:
- Submit all of the evidence that has been requested at the same time.
- Submit a portion, but not all, of the requested evidence. USCIS will adjudicate your application based on the information that it has.
- Finally, your third option is to withdraw your application.
In most cases, an RFE will clearly state which documents are missing. For example, if you failed to include a copy of your I-94 or your visa, you might receive an RFE that lists these documents.
RFEs in other cases may ask you to provide proof of your eligibility base on some immigration laws. If you do not understand what you are being asked to submit or prove, talk to an immigration attorney with reviewing the RFE and submitting the evidence to strengthen your application.
The USCIS requires you to submit all of the evidences The RFE requests to mail it to the USCIS in a single mailing.
If you cannot locate some documents within the deadline, go ahead and partially respond to the RFE by sending what you have than to fail to send anything.
While OPT RFE might sound like a tough play, it helps you to know what is lacking in the application and respond in a sound manner. Thus, it helps you increase your chance of getting approval from the system.
Max Troy is the Career Counsellor as well as a passionate Author. Well, he has years of experience in the Career and Jobs industry. As a part of his career at OPTnation, he helped various OPT and CPT candidates to shape their Career. Through his knowledge and writing skill, he is contributing to the students to find the best Career advice and immigration topics. Do share the information if you like it.