Visa Delays Leave International Students Stranded

A backlog of student work visa applications at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has left many international students at universities across the U.S. in limbo. Under the Optional Practical Training program, international students who are authorized to attend school in the U.S. can work in a field related to their studies for up to one year. Many students were counting on internships in the program for work experience and income, but because of the uncertainty of their visa status they are unable to start their internships, or in some cases, have had to forfeit their place in internship programs.

Crackdown on Students

The Trump administration has defined itself with its hardline stance toward immigration. Last year it decided to crackdown on students who overstay their visas by imposing harsh punishments, including barring entry to the United States for up to ten years. USCIS also changed the method for calculating the number of days foreigners on student visas have been in the country in order to determine “unlawful presence” – in other words if their status is legal.

The current backlog of student work visas has resulted in a delay of up to five months, which USCIS attributes to “a surge in employment authorization requests.” Last month the Chinese government warned its students of the delays and visa restrictions in the United States.

Appealing for Help

At Princeton University, international students appealed to the university president for help with financial hardships created by their uncertain visa status. Many have had to pay rent and other expenses that they expected to be able to cover with internship income. It has been nearly impossible for these students to begin their jobs on time, if at all. The application process for the Optional Practical Training program stipulates that a student may only apply for authorization 90 days before they anticipate finishing their degree or starting a job. Previously, although the maximum wait time was 90 days, it rarely exceeded 60.

Difficulty Recruiting Talent

New Jersey college leaders sent a letter to the state’s lawmakers that addressed their concerns over the decline in the overall number of foreign students coming to the U.S. to study. The letter detailed the trouble American educational institutions have experienced recruiting, retaining, and bringing over foreign talent due to a “disturbing increase in the number – and length – of impediments put in the path of international students, faculty, and staff.” They cited the long delays in processing times for visas and increase in requests for evidence as particularly problematic for educational institutions. The 29 New Jersey college and university leaders said that as students and academics turn to other options for study and work, American institutions are left weakened and less competitive on a global level.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Provide Experienced Counsel in All Areas of Immigration Law

For skilled representation for visa, green card, or any immigration matter, contact the Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. We have been helping people with immigration problems for over 15 years and have the knowledge and experience you need. Call 215-925-4435 or contact us online to schedule an appointment to discuss your case. Located in Philadelphia, we represent clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.