Complete Guide to OPT RFE (Request For Evidence) 

 May 31, 2023

By  Chuky Ofoegbu

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So you've just gone through the stress of putting together and submitting your I-765 application for your OPT (Optional Practical Training) or STEM OPT (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)…

And after several weeks of waiting for a favorable response on your OPT or STEM OPT application, you find out that an OPT RFE was issued by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). 

Ouch! Trust me, I know from experience how much that really hurts. 

Now for the next several days, you're gonna keep asking yourself what you could have done differently to prevent receiving an OPT RFE.

But you're in luck, as your resourcefulness has brought you here. 

Grab Our Free OPT Application Guide

The Ultimate Checklist For Your F1-Post Completion OPT Application!

If you've had the misfortune of receiving an OPT RFE or a STEM OPT RFE from USCIS, you will learn some helpful tips to follow, when responding to a Request for Evidence.

On the other hand, if you're yet to choose a start date and apply for your OPT or STEM OPT, then you are about to learn the common reasons why USCIS issues a Request for Evidence to F-1 students applying for OPT or the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension, and what you can do to prevent this. 

What is a Request for Evidence (RFE)

A Request for Evidence is a notice issued by USCIS stating that more information is required for your immigration case to be processed. 

If you receive an OPT/STEM OPT RFE from USCIS, on the USCIS case status online tool you will see the notification stating "Request for Additional Evidence Notice Was Mailed".

Sample OPT RFE issued by USCIS

This mail (which is usually delivered by USPS) would contain a letter, on USCIS letterhead, describing a list of issues with your OPT or STEM OPT EAD (Employment Authorization Document) application.

The RFE will clearly state the documents you must provide to allow USCIS process your I-765 application.

It is very important to note the deadline to respond to the RFE. USCIS must receive your response on or before this date.

Failing to respond in a timely manner could result in a denial of your I-765 application. 

Common reasons why USCIS issues an OPT RFE

Given that the decisions made on your OPT or STEM OPT EAD application are purely subjective, there are several reasons why USCIS could issue a Request for Evidence.

But here are 11 most common triggers for an OPT/STEM OPT RFE from USCIS

1. OPT Request for Evidence for missing signatures on the I-765 application

While it might seem like a no-brainer, failing to sign and date the Form I-765 application is a very common mistake many applicants make. 

Generally, I-765 applications with missing signatures are rejected at USCIS lockbox facilities.

However, under certain circumstances, USCIS might issue a Request for Evidence on I-765 applications for OPT or STEM OPT that have missing signatures. 

2. OPT RFE for leaving blank spaces on required sections of the I-765 application

Just as people forget to sign the Form I-765, they might also omit certain important sections of the Form I-765.

When this happens, USCIS could find your OPT application ambiguous, and could issue a Request for Evidence.

So when preparing your OPT or STEM OPT application, thoroughly review all the pages of the Form I-765, ensuring that you've completed every applicable section. 

With the option to submit I-765 applications electronically, errors caused by missing signatures and blank spaces are easily preventable. 

Thus, we should see a reduction in the number of OPT RFEs and rejections caused by these types of application errors. 

3. OPT RFE for missing required supporting documents for the OPT/STEM OPT EAD application

When applying for your OPT or STEM OPT, there are different supporting documents that are needed to process your application.

For example, an F-1 student applying for the 24-month STEM extension is required to provide copies of the front and back of the previously issued post-completion OPT EAD card. 

Similarly, an F-1 student who has engaged in Pre-Completion OPT, is required to provide copies of the EAD card issued by USCIS. 

Failing to provide any one of these supporting documents could result in an RFE from USICS.

4. OPT RFE caused by providing an incorrectly formatted passport photograph

Submitting passport photographs that do not meet the USCIS specification is a sure-fire cause for a Request for Evidence. 

That's why we recommend that it's best to get these passport photographs done by a professional or a semi-professional at your local grocery store such as CVS, Walmart or Walgreens.

5. OPT Request for Evidence from passport photographs that have been used in previous immigration applications

Another requirement of the passport photographs is that they must not be older than 6 months.

A common mistake many F-1 students make is using the same set of passport photographs that were used in a previous USCIS immigration application filed over 6 months ago.

An example is an F-1 student applying for the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension using the same passport photograph appearing on the current 12-Month OPT EAD card.

When this happens, USCIS could issue an OPT RFE asking for a recent passport photograph taken within the last 6 months.

6. OPT RFE caused by errors in your OPT/STEM OPT Form I-20

It is not uncommon for Designated School Officials (DSOs) to make mistakes on your Form I-20 endorsed for OPT or STEM OPT.

That's why you should thoroughly review every section of your OPT or STEM OPT endorsed I-20 before you submit a copy to USCIS.  

If anything appears odd to you, regardless of how trivial, contact your DSO for clarifications before submitting a copy of this Form I-20 as part of your I-765 application packet to USCIS. 

If USCIS cites an inconsistency in your OPT Form I-20 as a reason for issuing the OPT RFE , you will need to reach out to your DSO to provide a corrected Form I-20, as well as a letter of support explaining how the error was initially created and resolved.

7. OPT RFE for incorrect information about your STEM OPT employer 

Information about your STEM OPT employer is needed when applying for the 24 month STEM OPT Extension.

First, you will be completing the Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students with your employer, which will be reviewed by your DSO...

In Section 3 of the Form I-983, you will provide several important details about your employer and employment. It is best to have this section completed by your employer's Human Resource Department.  

Second, in Part 2 of the Form I-765, you will also provide your employer's name as listed in E-verify and your employer's E-verify number. 

A common mistake F-1 students make when applying for STEM OPT is failing to use the legal name and the correct E-verify number of their employer when completing the Form I-765.

You see, many companies operate under a DBA name (Doing Business As), which could be different from their registered legal name. 

Thus, when you use the DBA name of your employer, USCIS may be unable to identify this employer in the E-verify system, and could issue an OPT Request for Evidence.

Sample Form I-765 showing employer information section which commonly triggers an OPT RFE

Sample Form I-765 showing employer information section which commonly triggers an OPT RFE

Similarly, using an incorrect employer E-verify number could result in an OPT RFE.

The E-Verify number or E-verify company ID number usually consists of four to seven numerical characters and should not be confused with the Employer Identification Number (EIN) which is a 9 digit number in the format XX-XXXXXXX

Generally, this E-Verify number can not be retrieved from the E-Verify online database, and US employers do not publicly disclose their E-verify numbers.

So when completing the Form I-765, reach out to your employer's human resource department to provide you with the correct E-Verify number. Without this number, your STEM OPT application might be rejected.

Grab Our Free OPT Application Guide

The Ultimate Checklist For Your F1-Post Completion OPT Application!

8. OPT RFE caused by an incomplete or incorrect payment details for the I-765 filing fee

When submitting a payment for the I-765 filing fee in the form of a bank check or money order, ensure that this payment is made payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" and include the exact amount of the OPT filing fee. 

No more or no less!

Otherwise, your OPT/STEM OPT application might be rejected or you might receive a Request for Evidence.

You should also keep in mind that USCIS could change the cost of filing fees at any point in the future. So you must make sure to pay the I-765 fee that will remain current at the time your I-765 application is received by USCIS.

Another common cause of OPT RFEs here is forgetting to sign a check or money order. 

Again, that's yet another mistake that you could easily avoid by inspecting all your documents thoroughly.

9. OPT Request for Evidence caused by applying under the wrong eligibility category

Yet another mistake F-1 students make when completing the I-765 application is entering the incorrect eligibility category. 

Sample Form I-765 showing eligibility category for EAD which commonly triggers an OPT RFE

The eligibility categories for foreign students filing the I-765 application for Optional Practical Training is described in the Instructions for Application for Employment Authorization.

These categories are

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

The OPT eligibility categories have requirements that differ from one another. For example, someone choosing the (c)(3)(C) for the STEM OPT Extension is required to provide evidence that they have obtain a STEM degree. 

While someone choosing (c)(3)(B) for the Post-Completion OPT does not need to meet this STEM degree requirement. 

Thus, if the (c)(3)(B) applicant mistakenly chooses (c)(3)(C), they will receive a Request for Evidence asking for academic documents such as transcripts and diplomas to prove that they have obtained a STEM degree.

10. OPT RFE for having inconsistencies in your reported OPT employment

During the course of your Optional Practical Training, you are required to report any changes to your employment to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), in addition to reporting your employment every 6-month interval.  

These changes include the loss of employment, an increase or decrease in your compensation, the location of your employer, a statement about the nature of your job and how that is related to your major etc.

Failing to report any of these changes in a timely manner might result in an RFE when applying for the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension. 

For example, an F-1 student on OPT, who accrues several weeks of unemployment might receive an RFE asking for evidence that the 90-day unemployment limit was not exceeded, when applying for the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension. 

11. OPT RFE for lacking sufficient evidence to support an expedited request for OPT/STEM OPT

In the event that you have an emergency need for your EAD card, due to severe economic circumstances, you may request an expedited processing of your I-765 application from USCIS.

When seeking an expedited request from USCIS, it is very important that you present supporting documents demonstrating that you have a compelling reason to be granted an expedited request. 

If a USCIS officer reviewing your request does not find your supporting documents compelling enough, a Request for Evidence might be issued, giving you an opportunity to strengthen your request for expedited processing. 

How to respond to an OPT RFE

Just because you received an OPT RFE does not mean that your OPT/STEM OPT EAD application will be denied. If that were the case, you would receive what is called a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), which is more difficult to overcome.

So breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that you have another chance to correct any mistakes on your OPT or STEM OPT application. 

You should read the RFE very carefully, understanding the reason why USCIS issued it.

Thankfully, in an RFE, USCIS would explicitly describe what evidence it needs from you to move forward with the processing of your I-765 application. 

If you don't understand why the RFE was issued, or you aren't sure on how to respond, you should immediately seek the help of your DSO.  

When responding to an RFE, you must submit all the required documents (or evidence) in a single mailing package to the USCIS address written on the RFE.

As USCIS expects you to provide all responses to the RFE at the same time. 

You're also required to submit the original notice of the RFE along with the required documents. This RFE notice should be placed on top of the pile when assembling your RFE response package. 

You should make and keep a copy of this original RFE letter for your records. 

When mailing your OPT RFE response package to USCIS, it is best to obtain a confirmation of delivery from your courier service provider. This way you can monitor the delivery of the RFE response and have evidence to show that the response was delivered before the deadline. 

How long does it take USCIS to process a response to OPT RFE

When USCIS issues a Request for Evidence, the processing of your I-765 application will be temporarily suspended. 

Once your response to the RFE is received, USCIS will then resume the processing of your application.

Under normal circumstances, you can expect USCIS to process your application within 60 days of receiving your OPT RFE response.

However, there is no guarantee that USCIS will adhere to this 60-day processing time. 

In the event that USCIS exceeds this 60-day processing time, you can learn some tips to speed up the processing of your OPT application in our blog post discussing the best ways to speed up your immigration case with USCIS


If you receive an RFE on your OPT EAD application, and are confused on the next steps to take, it is best practice to reach out to your Designated School Official (DSO) for counseling on how to respond.

Your university's international office would usually have a DSO with a lot of experience dealing with F-1 OPT/STEM OPT applicants who have encountered Requests for Evidence on their EAD applications. 

In the alternative that help from your school's DSO is not forthcoming, or if you have a more complex RFE case, you should seek the counseling of an experienced immigration attorney immediately.

Pursuing Optional Practical Training is one of the biggest opportunities afforded to F-1 students in the United States, as it has the potential to lead to a rewarding career.

So don't let an OPT RFE get in the way of making this a reality. Instead, see it as a silver lining to strengthen your OPT or STEM OPT application. 

Best of Luck!

Grab Our Free OPT Application Guide

The Ultimate Checklist For Your F1-Post Completion OPT Application!

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is written for general information only and is NOT legal advice. The information presented in this article and anywhere else on this website should not be construed to be formal legal advice. If you need legal advice, you may contact a licensed attorney. 

Chuky Ofoegbu

With almost a decade of experience pursuing higher education in the United States, I fully understand the pain points foreign students endure. I created this website to help foreign students successfully navigate their way through the challenges they will face while living in the United States.

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