Please process OPT applications at USCIS Dallas Lockbox!

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Office of Intake and Document Production

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

 

Dear Mr. Ernest DeStefano, 

Hope this email finds you well.

We are a group of F-1 international students who are applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT) in late 2020. We are writing to you about a large-scale delay of OPT application receipts we have been experiencing at the Dallas USCIS lockbox facility since late October 2020. The delay has been devastating to so many of us: some of us have already passed 60 days after our F-1 status end date, and some of us have employment offers being jeopardized due to this delay. We have contacted the lockbox support (LockboxSupport@uscis.dhs.gov) numerous times, but they could not assist us other than providing a generic reply. We are writing directly to you in the hope that your office could investigate the issue at the Dallas lockbox.

We sent our application packages, the Form I-765, to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox following the USCIS filing guidance. Previously it took the lockbox at most two weeks to process the payment and send a receipt as well as a case number to the applicant. On October 28, 2020, the processing of the OPT receipts suddenly halted at the Dallas lockbox. We have been diligently monitoring the cases entered into the USCIS system using the case tracker tool (https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do We are also sharing our case status on an online platform. What we found is that OPT applications delivered to the Dallas lockbox prior to October 28, 2020 were receipted fairly quickly, within two weeks since the package delivery. However, almost all applications delivered to Dallas lockbox on or after October 28, 2020 have not been receipted as of today, January 4, 2021. Some of us delivered our applications to Dallas lockbox at the end of October 2020, but have not received our case number yet. It has been more than 60 days since our applications were delivered. According to the customer support of USCIS, our cases are stuck at the lockbox and have not been entered into the USCIS system yet.

We want to bring to your attention that this delay is unique to the Dallas lockbox. Phoenix lockbox, which also processes OPT I-765 applications, has been consistently making progress. We know that Phoenix lockbox has processed through applications delivered on November 17, 2020, and it continues to process hundreds of OPT applications per day. In contrast, the Dallas lockbox has made almost zero progress on OPT applications since the end of November. 

We understand the challenges due to COVID-19 and the increase in filling that USCIS is facing. But we desperately need to get our applications processed soon. As you know, the F-1 OPT is very time-sensitive. We only have 12 months of time to work in the US, and we need to file the application within 60 days of our program end date. The current wait time for a receipt has already surpassed the filing deadline for many of us. Our employment offers are also on the line. Many of us fear that we may lose the opportunities to work in the US and have to leave the country with no fault on our own. Seeing the Dallas lockbox making no progress at all for an entire month has been extremely distressing.

Thousands of scholars and researchers with PhD are also in danger of losing their legal status due to this unprecedented delay. As embassies are mostly closed worldwide, there is already a shortage of new students coming to US. If this delay continues, it will force the remaining talents to leave the US and potentially cause serious shortage of much required talents in the near future to continue the progress of US.

Thank you for taking the time to read our concerns. We really need your help to address the issue at the Dallas lockbox. We will truly appreciate your assistance if you could help us to resolve this issue.

Thank you again and we hope you have a wonderful new year. 

Sincerely,

All F-1 international students who are applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT) in late 2020