Published: Jan. 19, 2021

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, USCIS is experiencing delays in issuing receipt notices for some applications and petitions filed at a USCIS lockbox facility. Individuals who have submitted an application to USCIS by mail, such as an Optional Practical Training (OPT) application, may experience a delay of four to eight weeks in receiving your receipt notice. 

USCIS is aware of these delays and is working to try to minimize them.  USCIS has recommended students wait 8 weeks before contacting USCIS about their OPT case. 

It is important to understand that the delay in issuing the OPT receipt notice does not mean your OPT application adjudication process is also delayed.  USCIS has explained, “these delays will not affect the received date. All submissions are date stamped upon arrival at the Lockbox, so regardless of when the Lockbox processes your application, your received date will reflect the date it actually arrived at the Lockbox.”  This means that the USCIS processing time begins when the lockbox receives your OPT application, not when your actual receipt notice is issued. 

The USCIS lockbox (currently Chicago for F-1 OPT) will ensure the OPT application is sent to the appropriate service center (currently the Potomac Service Center for F-1 OPT). Currently (as of 05/27/2021), the OPT processing time at the USCIS Potomac Service Center is 2 Months to 3.5 Months.  These processing times are subject to change.  Continue to check the USCIS processing times website for updates. 

If you are applying for an OPT STEM Extension, and if you have timely filed your OPT STEM Extension with USCIS and your post-completion OPT expires prior to the approval of the OPT STEM Extension, then USCIS will automatically extend your OPT employment authorization for an additional 180 days. You can learn more about the 180-day extension on the USCIS website

If mailing your application:  

If you have not yet filed your OPT application, you are encouraged to complete the Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, and include it on top of your application materials before mailing to USCIS to request a text message and/or email when USCIS accepts your form. The G-1145 is also subject to these delays and will not result in a faster notice from USCIS, but once the receipt notice is available from USCIS an electronic notification can be faster to receive compared to receiving the receipt notice in the mail. Prior to mailing in your OPT application be sure you check USCIS’s website for the USCIS mailing address to use, as it is subject to change. 

If e-filing your application:  

Please note that as of April 12, 2021, students can now electronically file their Pre-Completion OPT, Post-Completion OPT, and STEM OPT applications. Before electronically filing the Form I-765 with USCIS online, students must first receive a NEW I-20 from ISSS recommending Optional Practical Training (OPT) by submitting the ISSS OPT I-20 request form to ISSS.  It is imperative that ISSS first make the OPT recommendation in SEVIS prior to an I-765 form being submitted to USCIS online. This is very important. If a student first submits the USCIS online application and then requests the OPT recommendation I-20 from ISSS, the OPT application will be denied, as the regulations require the recommendation be entered into SEVIS prior to the OPT filing. 

Please visit USCIS’s Form Filing Tips webpage for more information on filing with USCIS. You are also encouraged to attend an ISSS OPT Workshop or join ISSS Zoom Advising to learn more about OPT.