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Know the Reasons for STEM OPT RFE
May 26, 2022
7 mins
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In this blog, you will find the following topics:

  • What are OPT and OPT Extension?
  • Reasons for OPT RFE
  • Responding to OPT RFE

Are you frustrated about receiving an OPT RFE from the USCIS after undergoing all hardships of submitting Form I-765 application and hoping for a positive reply? The USCIS does not issue an RFE without reason. Read on to know the reasons for getting the OPT RFE and how you should respond if you receive a notice.

What is Meant by OPT & OPT Extension?

OPT stands for Optional Practical Training related to the main field of study of a student with an F-1 visa and allows them to work temporarily. You can apply for OPT EAD if you fulfill the OPT eligibility criteria. The OPT Employment Authorization Document allows you to work for a maximum of 12 months in your specialized field of study.

Here's what you should do to apply for OPT Extension:

  • Submit Form I-765 within 90 days of your OPT employment authorization expiry.
  • Submit Form I-20 with a copy of the STEM degree.

Your employer must also meet the OPT extension requirement for your petition to be approved.

What is an RFE & Why Will you Receive It?

RFE stands for Request for Evidence. It is a notice given by the USCIS when your STEM OPT extension petition lacks the required documents or if the USCIS wants more information to process the petition. There is no need to panic when you get an RFE. The notice does not mean denial or rejection of your OPT application.

An RFE means the USCIS gives you a second chance to provide additional proof to process your petition. It is mandatory to respond to an RFE within the stipulated deadline. If not, the USCIS has the power to deny your petition.

Before you start reading in detail about the STEM OPT RFE, checkout our In-depth Guide to RFE H1B.

What happens when the USCIS issues an RFE?

The first thing the USCIS does when it issues an RFE is suspending your case's processing. The processing will resume when the RFE deadline ends. Generally, the USCIS will issue its approval, denial, or rejection of your STEM OPT extension within sixty days. Sometimes, the process can take longer than expected. If the USCIS denies your petition and you have applied for post-completion OPT, you can do any one of the following:

  • Leave the US immediately.
  • Enroll in an educational institution to pursue an SEVP-approved Master's degree or Ph.D. program.

USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence for several reasons because decisions on your STEM OPT EAD or OPT application are purely based on individual reasons.

Take a look at some of the common reasons for receiving an OPT RFE.

12 Reasons for OPT RFE

1. RFE for omitted signatures and lack of information on Form I-765

This is one of the initial OPT RFE reasons. Most F1 students make the common mistake of failing to sign and date Form I-765. Many of them also submit the petition without filling in the required details. Such discrepancies will definitely invite an RFE.

2. RFE stating photos not match requirements

One common STEM OPT RFE reason is when your application photos do not match the requirements. To avoid this RFE, you must:

  • Address all the photo requirements prescribed by the US Passport and International Travel.
  • Ensure the passport photos are not older than six months.

3. RFE for non-provision of documents for OPT EADor STEM OPT application.

Like every other non-immigrant visa process, the USCIS requires various documents to process your petition. Any OPT EAD or STEM OPT application that lacks the required documentation will receive an RFE. The USCIS will also ask for additional information if you possess an expedited OPT because of financial loss. The USCIS will ask for the following:

  • Reasons for the expediting request
  • Reasons for financial loss

4. RFE for CPT and Enrollment

Sometimes, the USCIS may want proof that you attended classes during the Curricular Practical Training while working. If this is one of your OPT RFE reasons, you should submit the following:

  • Student ID
  • Proof of tuition
  • Attendance proof
  • School transcripts

5. RFE for mistakes in the STEM OPT and OPT Form I-20

Generally, Designated School Offices or DSOs to incorrectly fill Form I-20 meant for OPT/ STEM OPT. Such errors will invite an RFE. Hence, you should check and recheck all the sections on Form I-20 prior to submitting a copy to the USCIS.

6. RFE for applying under the wrong eligibility category

F1 students often enter the incorrect eligibility category when completing Form I-765. The correct eligibility categories for filing I-765 for OPT are as follows:

  • Pre-Completion OPT - (c)(3)(A)
  • Post-Completion OPT - (c)(3)(B)
  • 24-Month Extension for STEM Students - (c)(3)(C)

Choose the correct category to avoid getting an RFE.

7. RFE for inaccurate For I-765 fee details

The OPT filing fee should be submitted through money order or a bank check in the name of the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security." If you do not adhere to these steps, the Department will reject your OPT/STEM OPT application might be rejected or send a Request for Evidence.

8. RFE for wrong information about your STEM OPT employer

It is mandatory to provide information about your STEM OPT employer to apply for a 24-month STEM OPT Extension. Most F1 students fail to use the legal name and the employer's correct e-verify number when completing Form I-765.

Also Read: How to respond to an H1B Transfer RFE?

9. RFE for Failure in reporting changes to the OPT employment

All F1 students should report the following:

  • Changes in the job under the Student and Exchange Visitor Program
  • The OPT job once in six months
  • Loss of work
  • Change in salary
  • Nature of the job
  • Relation of the job to the major
  • Location of the employer

Lack of the above information is reason enough to receive an RFE for a twenty-four-month STEM OPT extension.

10. RFE for mismatching e-verification numbers and unsigned checks

Receiving an RFE is inevitable in case the check is not duly signed or the e-verification numbers do not match the company name mentioned in the application.

11. RFE for lack of proof for an expedited STEM OPT/ OPT request

You must present supporting documents to USCIS when requesting expedited processing. USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence if it does not find enough evidence in your documents.

12. RFE to check totally accrued days of unemployment

F1 students can stay unemployed only for 90 days. If you receive an RFE for this reason, you must discuss the issue with your employer and present proper evidence showing that you have not crossed the 90-days limit.

How to acknowledge and reply to an OTP RFE?

Your OPT RFE response time begins from the time you receive the notice until the deadline, usually 30-90 days from when the RFE is generated. During this period, the USCIS pauses the processing and resumes it when the deadline is met. You can expect a notice regarding the USCIS' decision within sixty days or more in some cases.

There is no need to hit the panic button for an RFE. The notice gives you a chance to rectify the mistakes and move your application processing to the next stage. The rule of thumb is to respond immediately and not make any mistakes because the USCIS will not give you another chance.

1. Do I have a choice about responding to an OPT RFE?

Anxiety is a common reaction on receiving an RFE, but a proper response is mandatory. The RFE indicates that your application for employment authorization in the OPT category was incomplete. It is a second chance the USCIS is giving you to complete the application. If the RFE goes unanswered, the USCIS will make their final decision on your OPT employment authorisation with the incomplete application.

2. What if my OPT is denied even after I responded to the query?

In this case, you have a few options, and you will have to choose the one that is to your maximum advantage. The OPT denial is followed by a sixty-day grace period. This is a chance for you to seek to change your circumstances, like changing your university, if that is an option. Above all, the best advice is to not rush into any action but to thoroughly consider all your options before you make a final decision, and even consult with an experienced professional before you make the decision.

Best tips for responding to an OPT Request For Evidence

There are three ways to address an OPT RFE correctly, and make sure you follow one of these to post a response within the time frame given to you.

You can choose to make a complete response available to the USCIS, attaching all the requested documentation and evidence within the specified time. This is called a complete response. The second option is to post a partial response, in which case you are making it clear that USCIS is to make a decision based on the submitted documentation. The third choice is to withdraw your application and stop any further proceedings.

Federal law states that all required documentation and evidence be submitted simultaneously in one mail response. So your best response option is to gather and submit all the required documentation within the time frame stipulated in your RFE. If you submit your RFE response in several emails, the most likely outcome is that USCIS will make their decision on the documentation received in the first mail alone.

If unavoidable factors prevent a full response to your RFE, post a partial response with the documentation you can gather within the stipulated time. A partial response is always better than no response at all.

For more information about H1B and other US non-immigrant visa processes, please visit/follow TechFetch H1B.

**Disclaimer: All US immigration processes and policies are subject to change. Kindly refer to the USCIS official website for the latest updates.

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