A number of international students who have submitted applications for Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization have been contacting OISS to express their concern with processing delays. The longest processing time OISS advisor has seen so far is 129 days.
This blog will address the background of the processing delay issue and provide suggestions for what students can do in response to processing delays.
Why caused the USCIS opt processing delay?
The cause of the current delay is unclear. OPT processing times have always fluctuated due to the varying volume of applications (example: more applications around spring graduation time, fewer applications in the summer) and changes in the number of USCIS officers assigned to process work authorization applications. It may be that a combination of higher volume and fewer officers has caused the delay, but that’s just a guess – we really don’t know what caused it.
After applying for OPT, how long should I wait before trying to contact USCIS.
Please note that excessive contact with USCIS can actually slow down your OPT application, so it’s best to keep you contact minimal!
OPT APPLICATION (I-765) PENDING LESS THAN 75 DAYS
It is within the normal processing period. No need to do anything.
OPT APPLICATION (I-765) PENDING 75+ DAYS WITHOUT ANY CHANGE IN STATUS
The student or applicant may contact the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) (1-800-375-5283) to request that the case be elevated. This inquiry may help expedite the I-765 adjudication process but it is not guaranteed.
For more information about submitting a request when an I-765 has been pending for 75 days, please visit https://www.uscis.gov/forms/tip-sheet-employment-authorization-applications-pending-more-75-days
OPT APPLICATION (I-765) PENDING 90+ DAYS
Student/applicant submits an e-Request Case Inquiry to USCIS: https://egov.uscis.gov/e-Request/Intro.do.
Please do not contact USCIS multiple times as it slows the process. The student should choose either to call NCSC or to submit an e-Request, not both.
OPT APPLICATION (I-765) PENDING 90+ DAYS, AND STILL NO CHANGE 14 DAYS AFTER STUDENT HAS INQUIRED:
Email OISS (firstname.lastname@example.org) a copy of your receipt of notice and information about what you have done to reach out to USCIS (including copies of any emails you have received from USCIS) so that OISS advisor can try to contact USCIS on your behalf.
I already have a job offer. Can USCIS expedite my OPT application?
USCIS reviews all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and requests are granted at the discretion of the office leadership. The burden is on the applicant or petitioner to demonstrate that one or more of the expedite criteria have been met. Please review the following site for information regarding the process to expedite and the required criteria: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/expedite-criteria
What do I tell my employer? How can I explain this to them?
If the processing delay is going to affect your employment start date, keep your employer updated of what you have done to expedite the process. Explain to your employer that you can only start working after the start date on the OPT card AND after you get the OPT card in the mail. Be patient and keep the close contact with USCIS and OISS.
OPT online course
For other general OPT application questions, follow the instructions below to watch OPT online course on D2L OISS has created. Student MUST bring completion certificate of OPT Course to meet with OISS Advisor to request OPT I-20.
OPT Mythbusting Blog
For any other general questions about OPT application, you can check the “OPT Mythbusting” Blog series on OISSLIVE.