The recent decision by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to allow online filing of Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment authorization – or Form I-765 – has been welcomed by Indian students studying at US universities. OPT is a common choice for Indian students who want to work in the United States after finishing their studies.
According to the Open Doors study, which monitors international student numbers, 81,173 Indian students were enrolled in the OPT programme in November 2020.
International students with F-1 visas attending US universities are eligible for OPT, which allows them to work in jobs linked explicitly to their major fields of study for a set period.
Students may apply for up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before (pre-completion) or after (post-completion) finishing their academic studies (post-completion).
LAST WEEK, the USCIS’s announced that pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT, and a 24-month extension for STEM OPT applications can now be filed online.
Last year, there were significant delays in the USCIS issuing receipt notices for OPT applications at some lockboxes where the documents had to be filed due to Covid-19-related restrictions.
“Some students found the OPT process difficult last year. Obtaining approval for the work authorization document (EAD) card took a long time, about 4-5 months. It was a constant cause of worry, and many students had to postpone their start dates at the companies where they were hired. The procedure has now vastly improved.
The majority of students will anticipate receiving their EAD well ahead of their start dates. According to Shreyas Aiyar, a graduate student in computer science at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, “the latest online mode of application could make the process much less stressful.”
USCIS explained in February 2021 that the OPT delays were due to some lockboxes failing to issue notifications when they collected Form I-765 from students.
As a result of the delays in reviewing applications, some applicants were given shorter periods of OPT.
USCIS had required the requisite 14-month period to begin from the date of acceptance of the Form I-765 for applications for post-completion OPT for those applying between October 1, 2020, and May 1, 2021, to help F-1 students complete the entire period of requested OPT (up to 12 months).
This move to simplify the OPT rules has also come as a welcome relief to Indian students.
“Filing the OPT for Indian students is no longer an issue.” Students on F-1 visas will have 14 months from the date of Form I-765 approval to complete their 12 months of post-completion OPT, according to USCIS. Students usually have 14 months from the graduation date to complete up to 12 months of training.
Post-completion requests from F-1 students because of the delays, OPT, recipients who receive Form I-765 approval for less than the maximum amount of time requested will ask USCIS for a correction,” says Garima Adlakha, a master’s student at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering in her final semester. She was in the United States during the pandemic and did not return to India.
Several universities have also offered assistance to Indian students who have run into difficulties with their OPT.
“Some foreign students’ OPT may be delayed because they were unable to come to campus or begin their programme on time; several of our departments are working with them to find internship opportunities.” Students at our school of information systems and management also have access to our practise centre, which provides exciting opportunities for hands-on training,” says Anna Bahvala, student success specialist at the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business School of Information Systems and Management.
Students must study full-time for at least two full semesters (fall and spring) in valid visa status to be qualified for OPT.
“For new students, the eligibility clock will begin when they arrive in the United States to take their classes in person. So far, our continuing students who kept their F-1 status while studying outside the US have been able to apply the period against their OPT eligibility. “However, OPT applications must be sent from within the United States,” says John Martellaro, the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s director of public relations.