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Legal Issue Series - What to do about Delayed OPT Extensions

For many foreign students on F-1 visas, the practical American training they receive is just as important as their education. To this end, many F-1 students seek "OPT" or Optional Practical Training extensions so that they can stay longer to receive practical training. These OPT extensions are valuable because it allows for additional time to stay in the United States, hands-on practical training, and often time to seek other immigration options as the applicant's final school year winds down. This article will look at some of the issues someone could face while seeking an OPT extension.

One such issue is when an OPT extension application has been pending with USCIS for more than 90 days. This can be a difficult time for a foreign student who is essentially in immigration limbo as they await such a prolonged and delayed adjudication of their OPT extension. Without such an extension, they usually cannot work and must have to immediately return to their home country if their application is denied. Should someone face a USCIS Form I-765 application that has been pending more than 90 days, they should either call 1-800-375-5283 to request an expedited I-765 adjudication because it is outside normal processing times. The other option is to make the same request in an in-person InfoPass appointment at https://infopass.uscis.gov.

The other issue is the limited period one can stay unemployed under an OPT extension. The number of maximum days allowed to be unemployed varies depending on the type of industry the foreign student is working in and when the unemployment occurs. Furthermore, not only do days not formally being employed count towards the total number of days allowed to be unemployment, but so will days spent employed in a non-qualifying job. However, time spent before the issuance of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card does not count towards this cap. Foreign students should seek advice from their university or an immigration attorney to make sure their employment qualifies and to navigate any unemployment issues.

Foreign students may find themselves in particularly difficult situations because of the need to coordinate between universities, private immigration attorneys, and their personal lives. Contact our office today if you have any questions regarding your foreign student visa or other immigration issues.

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