Update on OPT Processing Delays

July 4, 2019

Dear Students,
The ISO continues to monitor F-1 Optional Practical Training processing times as approval timelines have been delayed as compared to previous years. These processing delays are affecting all OPT applications processed around the U.S.

We are sending this update to provide additional context and information. If you have any questions that are not answered, feel free to contact your ISO Advisor.

Past experience, and as we advised you during the F-1 Employment Information Sessions, OPT had been averaging 90-100 days. In the past two weeks, we have seen OPT applications approved anytime between 91-115 days since date of filing, though we have some pending applications that are approaching more than 115 days.

Please note that while USCIS has placed on its website a notice that “normal processing time” for OPT cases are from 4 weeks to 5 months, our current experience is 91-115 days on average (not 5 months). We understand the change processing  time notification by USCIS is for purposes of advising applicants that they cannot inquire about an application “beyond normal processing time” now until 5 months have passed since receipt of the application.  Please note that the ISO is reaching out to USCIS about our concerns for applications pending longer than 110 days.

More information is below my signature line.  We continue to check USCIS Case Status Online as well for all pending OPT applications, but appreciate your assistance in confirming if your application is still pending more than 115 days from the date of USCIS receiving your application. If you receive your EAD card, please be sure to login to iMIT and complete the Eforms under the “F-1 Practical Training” menu for “Reporting Requirements on OPT/STEM OPT” for both submitting a copy of your EAD card and notifying us of your OPT employer information.

These USCIS delays are frustrating for all of us, and we appreciate your assistance and patience in this process.

Sincerely,
David

***
David C. Elwell
Associate Dean and Director
International Students Office
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
77 Massachusetts Avenue, Building E18-Room 219 (E18-219)
Cambridge, MA  02139
Phone:  (617) 253-3795
Fax:  (617) 258-5483
Email:  elwell@mit.edu
http://iso.mit.edu

ISO Office Hours:  Monday through Friday, 9:00am-4:00pm Eastern Time; Closed Wednesdays from 10:00am-11:30am Eastern Time.

 

Guidance regarding OPT processing times - July 2019

CHECKING CASE STATUS ONLINE
For pending OPT applications, you can go to USCIS Case Status Online (https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do) and type in your Receipt Number, as appears on your Form I-797 Receipt Notice received from USCIS. 

Case Status Online will confirm the date your application has been received (as referenced in your Receipt Notice) and will be updated to reflect any additional action taken by USCIS.

KEEP YOUR EMPLOYER UPDATED
We find it very important that students keep their employer updated on the status of their application.  It is best if you notify your employer (if you have a job offer already) once your OPT application is received so they know the application is in process.  ISO also recommends that you mention that you cannot confirm a processing time by USCIS, only estimates, and that it would be best for you and your employer to have a plan if your starting date needs to be delayed due to delays in your OPT being approved.

Employers may work with you, if your application is significantly delayed, about being hired by their overseas affiliate company and working abroad until your OPT is approved.  Note that you cannot be hired by and working for the US-based company, and working abroad, on your OPT.  OPT is required if you are employed/hired by the US based company, doing any work activity in the US, or your pay is from a US source.

REMINDER:  You may NOT begin employment, even non-paid activity, under your OPT until the OPT is approved and you have your EAD card in hand and the validity date of the EAD card has arrived.
 

WHEN SHOULD I CONTACT ISO IF MY APPLICATION IS STILL PENDING?
Please contact your ISO advisor if your application has been pending more than 115 days from the Receipt Date that appears on your Form I-797 Receipt Notice, and your planned start date is within 2 weeks, please contact your ISO advisor.  ISO staff has been continually reaching out to USCIS regarding concerns and can also advise about additional steps that may be taken.

USCIS CASE STATUS ONLINE SAYS MY APPLICATION HAS BEEN APPROVED OR “CARD ORDERED”, WHEN WILL I RECEIVE MY EAD CARD?
Our experience is that the EAD card is received in approximately 1 week from when USCIS Case Status Online has indicated the application has been approved and/or “card ordered”.  There is no way to expedite the delivery of the EAD card.  The EAD card will be mailed to you, to the mailing address you provided to USCIS on your Form I-765 application for OPT, via US Postal Service Priority Mail.  Once the EAD card has been mailed by USCIS, they will usually post a message on USCIS Case Status Online confirming this and provide the US Postal Service Priority Mail tracking number for your reference. 
REMINDER:  You may NOT begin employment, even non-paid activity, under your OPT until the OPT is approved and you have your EAD card in hand and the validity date of the EAD card has arrived.

CAN I REQUEST TO USCIS THAT MY APPLICATION BE EXPEDITED?
USCIS has very limited reasons it will consider for an Expedite of any applications being processed by their Service Centers.  An overview is available on the USCIS website (https://www.uscis.gov/forms/how-make-expedite-request).  Our experience is that they are only considering expedites when there is a severe financial hardship to your employer caused by the delay in your ability to work.  A detailed letter for your employer would be required, and there is still no guarantee the expedite will be granted (but it is possible to make the request).  You can speak with your ISO Advisor if you have any questions.

MY EMPLOYER WANTS MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OPT PROCESSING, CAN THEY TALK TO THE ISO?
Yes, your ISO Advisor will be happy to speak with your employer to provide our perspectives on the OPT processing delays.  Our experience has been that employers are very understanding as they know the delays are not the fault of the student and are used to dealing with government processing delays.  However, some employers, and students, may benefit from a conversation between the ISO Advisor and employer.  If you have your employer contact your ISO Advisor, please let your advisor know in advance that they can speak with your employer about the specifics of your application, otherwise we can only give general information about OPT processing.

WHAT  ADDITIONAL STEPS ARE ISO AND MIT UNDERTAKING REGARDING OPT PROCESSING DELAYS?
The ISO and MIT continue to be in contact with USCIS to notify them about the delays and its impact on our students.  ISO Staff does reach out to the CIS Ombudsman’s Office concerning extensive delays as well as to resolve issues of EAD cards not received (lost in the mail) or any USCIS processing errors.  ISO Staff and the MIT Washington Office have been in communication regularly with our Members of Congress to seek there assistance and outreach to USCIS, as are our colleagues at institutions throughout the US facing the same delays.  While we understand some additional USCIS officers have been assigned to process OPT cases, there is still a backlog.  We will continue our outreach to insure USCIS is aware and takes steps to address processing delays.