What is STEM Extension Rejection (I797C) Impact on Work Authorization ?


New Member
Recently, I filed an I-765 Application for STEM OPT Extension and along with a cashier’s check of 410$, it was delivered to USCIS Lewisville Center, TX on Nov 16, 2020. On Feb 19, 2021 I received my receipt number from my University DSO which said - “case was received on November 16, 2020”. On Feb 22, 2021 my case status changed to “Petition/Application was rejected for insufficient funds” around 3 PM. I called my bank right away and they said that the check was successful, so I called USCIS and they told me to check with my bank again.

On the morning of Feb 23, 2021, I visited my bank to check the status of my cashier's check and the officer there told me that the funds were transferred successfully to the 'US Treasury' and they gave me a transaction receipt which as per bank, should serve as a proof of payment.

So, I called USCIS again and this time they forwarded my case to a higher officer. I spoke to that officer and they said that they don’t handle the payments so they can’t do anything about it. They didn’t even allow me to show them my proof of payment and told me that I will receive a physical notice in the mail and I should just follow that notice regardless of who so ever's fault it is. They told me to write an email to the lockbox if I've any further issues.

On the morning of 27 Feb, 2021 I received I797C Notice of Action saying - “USCIS is rejecting your application because your bank or financial institution returned or declined your fee payment instrument”. Additionally, they said - to reapply for the benefit, you must submit a new application or petition along with a new filing fee and supporting documents.

I mailed lockbox about the delay in application and status update on Jan 27, 2020. The automated reply told me - they should get back to me within 30 days and I still have not received any response yet. Also in their automated reply they said - “ Duplicate requests for status and updates will not receive a response.” So I don't know if they'll respond if I reach out to them again.

Here are some of my concerns -

1. How does this rejection affect my work authorization ? My current EAD expired on 22 Dec, 2020 but as per the rules when my application is pending, my previous OPT and I-20 should serve as a proof of my employment for 180 days. I believe as my application isn't denied (only rejected due to a payment issue), my work authorization should still be valid while I refile, do you agree with this ?
2. How should I communicate with the lockbox about the payment proof of my original application ? Is email my only option ?
3. I know as per recent notice from USCIS on Feb 26, I am eligible to refile my application. What’s the best way to communicate my side of the story to USCIS to avoid potential denials ?
4. My I797C Notice Mail only contained a single piece of paper which was the notice itself. No other document from my original application and my check were mailed back to me. Should I just add this notice in the new application packet ?

I humbly request anyone to please answer my questions at your earliest convenience as this is a tense situation for me and my employer.