In a move that would be beneficial to Indian students in the US, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced it would provide for greater flexibility for students to finish their optional training program (OPT) after they graduate on account of delays in processing applications.
The OPT permits foreign students to work in the country for a year after they graduate, which should be finished within 14 months of their program ending. Students studying science, technology, engineering, and maths get an extra two years. The 14 month period will currently commence on the date of the approval of which is the application for post-completion OPT for applications filed between 1st Oct 2020, and 1st May 2021.
In the last few months, there have been a few delays in processing Form I-765. In January, USCIS had said that Covid-19 restrictions had resulted in an increase in filings. And this would have a postponement of four to six weeks in candidates/students getting their receipt notice after filing their petition.
US allows more flexibility for foreign STEM Students under the Optional Training Program
“These delays are a result of COVID-19 restrictions, a dramatic increase in filings of certain benefit requests, postal service volume and delays, and other external factors. While we have made progress in addressing the problem, we are extending … flexibilities to help certain candidates for OPT affected by the delays,” said the agency in a press note.
In February, a group of 18 international students filed a lawsuit against the agency. On the grounds that a delay in processing their application could make them lose their legitimate status in the country during the waiting period.
Over the last few years, has been sending between 185,000-200,000 students to the US every year. In 2019/20, more than 81,000 students were in the country on an OPT as per an Open Doors report.
Also, the delays had resulted in participants having a shorter OPT period. The agency said that it would begin approving applications for post-completion OPT with validity dates. Reflecting the same amount of time originally recommended by the designated school official (DSO) from their school on Form I-20. Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. Students who get approvals for a shorter period of time can request a correction due to USCIS error, it said.