OPT Premium Processing – What You Must Know 

 September 21, 2023

By  Chuky Ofoegbu

If you’re an international student applying for OPT, you might be considering the option of OPT Premium Processing.

In this article, we will share crucial insights to help you understand when the OPT Premium Processing is the best choice. 

And just as important when it's not the best choice! 

What is USCIS Premium Processing? 

You can think of Premium Processing as USCIS' fast-pass ticket that allows you to jump WAY ahead of the line on certain underlying petitions or applications. 

And currently, the Form I-765 employment authorization petition that’s filed by F1 international students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) is one of the few petitions eligible for Premium Processing.

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This could be the Pre-Completion OPT, the Post-Completion OPT, and the 24-month STEM OPT extension.

When USCIS accepts an application for Premium Processing USCIS guarantees that the underlying petition - for which you're requesting Premium Processing - will receive a decision anywhere between 15 - 45 calendar days!

And in the case of the Premium Processing for OPT, USCIS currently guarantees a decision in 30 calendar days!

Note that the 30 calendar days does not include the time it takes USCIS to produce and deliver the OPT EAD card to you!

Now while that sounds enticing, it’s important to clear up that Premium Processing does not guarantee you an approval of your OPT application. 

Neither does it grant you any form special treatment outside of the faster response time.

In other words, if your petition would normally be rejected or approved if you took the standard processing route, with Premium Processing, you’ll be getting the same rejection or approval,  only much faster.

How do you apply for OPT Premium Processing? 

You can apply for the OPT Premium Processing in two ways - paper-based or online. 

And while both are effective, going online might save you some time and minimizes many of the common errors made via paper filing.

As for when to file, you can file for OPT Premium Processing at the time of your initial filing for the OPT or anytime after your initial filing.

Though some people prefer to wait until they’ve received their USCIS receipt notice for the initial OPT petition. 

Grab Our Free OPT Guide

The Ultimate Checklist For Your F1-Post Completion OPT Application

What are the benefits of OPT Premium Processing?

Now to put the benefits of the OPT Premium Processing into perspective, at the time of this publication, the standard OPT processing time - which is defined as the length of time it takes 80% of applicants to receive a decision - is 1 and a half months counting from the date their application is received by USCIS. 

So, when you compare that to the 30-days guaranteed by Premium Processing, the time savings for most people is only about 50% faster.

Which leads me to the next point which is... 

Is the time savings of OPT Premium Processing worth the cost?

This is the first consideration you’ll have to make!

As of this publication, the non-refundable fee for Premium Processing the Form I-765 is $1,500!

And you’ll be paying this is in addition to the non-refundable filing fee for the OPT application, which is $410 at the time of this publication.

Bringing your total fees just shy of $2,000.

You can pay the Premium Processing fee via credit cards – which is the only option when filing your request online .

And if filing the request for OPT Premium Processing by paper, you will need to fill out a special form to submit your credit card information.

Alternatively, you can pay this Premium Processing fee using money order, cashier check  – which, by the way, aren't the same as personal checks – or you can make a personal check payable to the US Department of Homeland Security.

Also keep in mind that If you're paper filing both the request for Premium Processing and your OPT application at the same time.

Make sure to separate the payment for the Premium Processing fee from your OPT application fee. Otherwise, USCIS could reject both applications.

The other thing to keep in mind is...

How useful is the time savings of OPT Premium Processing really?

You see while the standard OPT processing time could take up to 3 months in some cases, you can minimize the impact of this long processing time by applying early for the OPT.

Take for example, the post-completion OPT which is the most used amongst the three types of OPT.

Considering that you are allowed to submit your application for Post-Completion OPT as early as 3 months before your graduation date.

Which we highly recommend everyone filing for post-completion OPT...

And, the earliest date you are allowed to begin working on post-completion OPT is the day after your graduation...

It’ll make very little sense to apply for OPT Premium Processing when you very likely could get the same on-time decision from USCIS if you simply applied early for the post-completion OPT! 

Not to mention that even though USCIS processes your OPT application later than the start date you requested, you won’t be accruing the 90-days of OPT unemployment until your OPT EAD card has been delivered to you!

So don’t let the fear of receiving your OPT EAD card later than the start date you chose when applying for OPT scare you into applying for OPT Premium Processing.

USCIS Premium Processing for STEM OPT Extension

In the case of the STEM-OPT extension, if you submitted a timely STEM OPT extension application to USCIS, you’re allowed to continue working for an additional 6-months while your STEM OPT application is being processed.

So there should be no worries of your employment authorization ending immediately after your initial post-completion OPT period ends.

So as you can see, many of the instances where you might find yourself desperate to expedite your OPT application using Premium Processing are highly preventable by simply applying early. 

When Does Filing OPT Premium Processing Make Sense?

With that said, there are some instances where I do see a strong case for the Premium Processing.

One situation is for the unfortunate OPT cases where you have a job offer with an inflexible early start date and you have an OPT application that is stuck in the USCIS system.

Or when additional processing times are required such as in the event of a Request for Evidence by USCIS.

Another scenario where exploring Premium Processing makes sense is if you find yourself in a position where you can’t apply for the OPT early 

Because your school’s international student office is severely backlogged in issuing updated Form I-20s for students filing OPT. 

Grab Our Free OPT Guide

The Ultimate Checklist For Your F1-Post Completion OPT Application

Applying for OPT Premium Processing Online

To apply for the OPT Premium Processing online, you will need to first create a USCIS Online Account. Watch the video below for a step-by-step guide of how to setup your USCIS online account and file the Form I-907 online. 

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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