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OPT visa waiting times more than doubled in recent months

Optional Practical Training visas allow employers in New York and around the country to hire foreign students and recent college graduates to fill positions that are related to their major field of study. OPT visas give students and graduates an opportunity to receive valuable training and provide employers with highly skilled workers, but recent reports suggest that the program is currently being hampered by excessively long waiting times.

Fewer than 400 of the 900 international students who applied for training positions at Massachusetts General Hospital have received their OPT visas, and immigrant advocacy groups say that the problem is not confined to the northeast. In previous years, students who did not receive an OPT visa within three months could obtain one by visiting a local immigration office. However, the Trump administration has eliminated this rule, and waiting times are now as long as seven months.

Delays may hinder spousal immigration applications

Family immigration is one of the most popular means for foreign citizens to legally live in New York or another part of the United States. When an American marries a foreign national, both spouses often hope to live together as quickly as possible. However, spouses may face serious delays when dealing with the immigration system. A congressional hearing on immigration delays and processing times identified spousal sponsorships as a particular area of concern needing action. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, or USCIS, publishes average processing times, but these may obscure the lengthy delays that can accompany the process.

The U.S. citizen spouse will file an I-130 petition to begin the spousal sponsorship process. While this type of application may take around five months to be approved, as noted on the USCIS website, that is only the beginning of the journey. After the I-130 approval, foreign spouses living in the U.S. will need to apply to adjust their status and receive a green card. This process can take months as can receiving a work permit. As a result, families may face higher costs and experience lower income throughout the family immigration process.

How spouses of American citizens can obtain citizenship

Permanent residents who live in New York and who are married to American citizens may be eligible to become citizens themselves. This is true if a person has had a green card for at least three years and has had the same spouse during that time period. Furthermore, that individual must have resided in the United States for three years prior to applying to become a naturalized citizen.

During this time, the applicant must have actually lived in the country for 18 months. An applicant must reside in the state or district where an application is filed for three months prior to doing so. These time requirements may not apply to those who are living abroad and are married to a United States citizen. However, an individual must generally be in the country to take the naturalization exam and to take part in the naturalization ceremony.

The process of becoming a naturalized citizen

Foreign nationals living in New York who wish to become U.S. citizens through the process of naturalization must fulfill several requirements. They must be at least 18 years old, and there is a requirement to demonstrate a good knowledge of English and pass a civics test although these may be waived for elderly applicants who are permanent residents. These requirements might also be waived for people with certain mental conditions. Applicants must possess an I-551.

Some criminal convictions committed after Nov. 28, 1990 will disqualify people from naturalization. The person must have resided in the United States for 30 months of the five years prior to the application and must have shown what is called "good moral character" in those five years. People married to U.S. citizens must demonstrate this for three years, and there may be military exceptions of just one year for some people.

Navigating the immigration system for love

Family-based immigration categories are some of the most important to many people as they allow them to connect with their loved ones separated by distance.

In the family-based system of immigration, three groups of people receive priority: spouses, fianc├ęs and adopted children. U.S. citizens can help their spouses gain permanent residency by filing a visa petition on behalf of their spouse. If the spouse is living outside of the U.S. when the petition receives approval, processing will be completed at his or her U.S. consulate. On the other hand, spouses living inside the U.S. can adjust their status to permanent residency upon approval.

Trump administration proposes points-based immigration system

Foreign nationals in New York who have been waiting years for a family- or employment-based green card could be sent to the back of the line or made ineligible altogether under a proposed Trump administration policy. The new policy, which must be rewritten into legislative language and approved by Congress, would eliminate the current backlog for green cards and force everyone to reapply under a new points-based systems.

While wait times could be reduced for some, there is no guarantee that all foreign nationals waiting for green cards would have enough points under the proposed system. The administration has said those already waiting would receive points, but no new details have been released about this. Most family immigration categories will be eliminated, and it is anticipated that Democrats will oppose the proposal when it reaches Congress.

Which student visa is right for you?

The United States is home to some of the best schools in the world. A quality education is a cornerstone of the American dream. Students from around the globe strive their whole lives for the chance to study in the U.S.

While an American education is a dream for many, getting a visa to study in the U.S. can be difficult. To achieve that goal, it's important to know what opportunities are available.

What routes do highly-educated immigrants have for working in the U.S.?

The U.S. is a much sought after destination for highly skilled workers looking for career and professional opportunities. What options do highly-educated foreign nationals have for getting authorization to live and work in the U.S.?

Does the proposed new H-1B rule conflict with current law?

H-1B visas are the vehicle for thousands of foreign-born workers to legally find high-skilled work in the U.S. every year. Most of them work in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), where American employers grapple with worker shortages.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) now proposes to change the way they handle H-1B visa petitions. Some argue the proposed changes conflict with current immigration law.

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