February 19, 2021

Administrative delays a problem for OPT applicants

Numerous individuals from other countries choose to come to the United States to pursue higher education. When their time at university is finished, many of them wish to stay and work in their field of choice before returning home. These students are offered jobs all over the country, including here in Michigan; however, before they can start working, they have to have their applications for Optional Practical Training approved through U.S. Immigration Services. Unfortunately, administrative delays are causing many OPT applicants to lose their job offers, and some even have to leave the country.  

What is the OPT program? 

The Optional Practical Training program allows students with F-1 visas the ability to remain in the United States after they graduate to work and continue training in their field of study. If their applications receive approval, they are permitted to stay for an additional year or so — depending on their profession. Those with degrees in science, engineering, math or technology-related fields generally get approved to stay longer.  

What is going on? 

According to numerous OPT applicants, some have lost job offers, been forced to wait to start employment or have been given 60 days to leave the country — all because their applications have been held up by the USCIS. Some have waited months to receive notice that their applications have even been received, let alone approved. It is that notice of receipt that they need to begin working. According to the USCIS, staff shortages, postal volume and an increase in applications are behind the processing delays. 

What can they do? 

If the notice of receipt comes too late for a specific job, these individuals may search for other employment. If their job offer is held, they simply have to wait until the notice of receipt comes, then they can start working. If it comes after their visas expire, this is where things get complicated. They may need to appeal to the USCIS to remain in the country. 

Get help 

Filing an appeal regarding one’s immigration status is not necessarily hard, but the smallest of mistakes can cost one their right to remain in the country. OPT applicants who would like to appeal can turn to an experienced immigration law attorney for assistance doing so. With the right help, one can make it through the appeals process as quickly and smoothly as possible.