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.
Denial rates have also increased, and the White House has stoked fears by introducing a policy that makes it easier to file charges against international students who are in the country illegally. When asked about the problem, a U.S. Customs and Immigration Services representative blamed the delays on a surge in demand and said measures had been taken to reduce OPT waiting times to less than 90 days.
Long waiting times are just one of the obstacles facing individuals who would like to live and work legally in the United States. The paperwork that must be completed to obtain a work-related visa is complex, and even minor omissions or mistakes can lead to applications being delayed or denied. Attorneys with business immigration experience may help employers interested in finding skilled foreign workers to navigate the process, and they may also work to ensure that paperwork is completed correctly, submitted in a timely manner and supported by all of the documents required by the USCIS.