Most international students study in the US to get a good job. According to the IE’s Open Doors Report, the number of international students in the country was recorded at 1095299 in the academic year of 2019-2020. But will the enrolled rates increase if they do not get employed?
Many international students in the country have raised concerns over the delay in receiving OPT (Optional Practical Training) due to the ongoing pandemic. Many of them have graduated back in the year 2020 and are yet to receive their work permit. But how does OPT allow international students to work? Read on to know more.
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All you need to know about OPT
OPT or optional practical training will allow international students to work in the country for around three years. Moreover, it has been devised to ensure that the students learn practical skills that interest employers. While most international students choose this training after graduation, it can also be done while you are finishing your degree.
The initial time limit after gaining an OPT will allow international students 12 months in the country. STEM students can further apply for an extension of 24 months. But can everyone apply for it?
The basic criteria for applying for an OPT is by possessing an F1 visa. Moreover, the international student must be studying at any of the country’s universities for about a year. There is a reason why it is more favourable than an H-1B visa.
An H-1B visa is a temporary work permit and has to be sponsored by your employer. This means that you need to have a job to get one. But you can apply for an OPT without a job and increase your skillset.
The lawsuit against the authorities
Due to the delays, around 18 international students have filed a lawsuit together. The lawsuit was filed against the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in Ohio, US. All of them face a common risk – of losing their legal rights to stay in the country due to delay in OPT.
The lawsuit aimed to make the USCIS’ open, process as well as adjudicate an application for OPT.’ The principal attorney, in this case, was Robert Cohen. According to him, while only 18 international students filed a lawsuit, thousands of them are waiting for their OPT in the country.
Cohen has reportedly said that delays put the international students in a vulnerable group as they cannot get access to ‘insurance, income and job offers’ in the country. They also risk the chances of getting removed before they can resubmit their application. The lawsuit wants to address all these concerns as the sole control, in this case, is with USCIS.
The other claims of the lawsuit included:
- Allowing a grace period for the international students who have expired their F-1 visas for at least 14 days after the authorities judge their OPT application
- Issuing’ Request of Evidence’ instead of dismissing application directly due to technical errors
- USCIS accepting resubmission of applications till about 50 days from the initial rejection date
USCIS’s move about the delays
The delays in receiving OPT are not new. It started back in October 2020. However, the USCIS took time to comment on the delays.
The first formal statements released by the authorities regarding the delays were on 8th January 2021. It acknowledged the delays and attributed them entirely to Covid-19 related factors. On 26th February, the USCIS issued a second public statement addressing the delays.
It stated that the applicants who are experiencing the delay could enjoy a 14 months OPT ‘period of flexibility.’ This will ensure that the students can enjoy the OPT time requested by them. It also allows stated that some of the international students will get a chance to resubmit rejected applications.
This means that the latest policy allows refiling their applications after getting a rejection. The USCIS will treat take the date of these refiled applications as the original application submission date. There is another change in the policy.
The international students with applications for Form I-765 with deficient or missing signatures will enjoy certain benefits. Their applications will not be denied. Instead, they will have to submit evidence for it.
In January 2021, the USCIS attributed the covid restrictions as the reason for delays. The restrictions lead to an increase in the filing quantity, an increase in the latest volume of the postal service, and other kinds of external factors. Due to this, the international students may experience a delay by 4-6 weeks maximum for receiving the receipt after applying. It depends on the form types and dropbox locations.
The USCIS has assured all the international students that they do not have to worry about employment. If any student’s permit expires when their Form I-765 application is being processed, they will get a work permit extension by at least 180 days. But yet, it is still a big concern for international students.
More about USCIS flexibilities
The latest acknowledgment of delays by USCIS and the extension of the policy for filings have been extended till 1st May 2021. This means that the students can expect more amount of delays in the upcoming months. As a result, the students have to deal with the delays well into the hiring months, i.e., summer 2021.
The policy changes brought in by the USCIS will look into delays in EAD issuance. However, the international students who are filing for OPT must:
- File the Form I-765 within the stipulated timeframe
- The ones filing for an initial 12 months work permit after OPT need to file at least 90 days before or 60 days after their graduation program completion date
- The STEM students want to apply for the 24 months extension within 90 days of their initial OPT expiration day.
While the delays might continue, it will ensure that international students’ future is not in danger. After paying excessive amounts of money, these students deserve to have a fair shot at using their degrees and building a country’s life.