As of April 12, 2021, USCIS began accepting I-765 applications for employment authorization online for certain students applying in connection with their F-1 student visa.
This change is part of a long-standing effort within USCIS to expand online filing with the goal of speeding up processing times and reducing paperwork. Presently, only applicants filing under one of the following three categories are able to file I-765 online:
- (c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT;
- (c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT; and
- (c)(3)(C) – 24-Month Extension of OPT for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students.
These are all employment authorizations for work that is directly related to the applicant’s course of study at a U.S. educational institution. Such an authorization provides a social security number and employment authorization card, with which the applicant can work legally in the US for one year from the time of approval. Please note this authorization is only valid as long as the applicant maintains F-1 status, so be careful about exiting and re-entering the U.S. while you are temporarily authorized to work. If you have specific concerns, please consult your institution’s international student office or an immigration attorney.
There are benefits and drawbacks to filing online. When you file online, you will not have to wait for notices sent by mail, as all notices related to your filing (except the final document) will be emailed directly to you. Filing online may reduce the processing time as well. However, in previous rollouts of new features with ELIS, our office has experienced serious technical difficulties in filing, which may result in having to fill out the same form several times. If you are encountering these technical difficulties, it may in fact be easier to mail in a paper copy of the form.
USCIS uses ELIS as their electronic submission portal, where an applicant can provide all the information for a select number of simple forms along with supporting documents. In order to file online, you will need to create an online account connected to your phone number. Please click on the following link for a complete list of forms that can be filed online, including the I-765.
This post is general information, and does not constitute legal advice. If you have more specific concerns about how these changes may affect your immigration case, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. Because many factors vary in each individual’s situation, it is important to review all the facts of a situation before giving any legal advice.