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Inside Higher Ed

By Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed

"International students can apply for work authorization 90 days before they graduate, but they're facing application processing times that routinely exceed that.

Colleges are seeing increases in processing times for international students applying for work authorization through the Optional Practical Training, or OPT, program, leaving some students with job or internship offers unable to take up their positions on time.

OPT allows international students to stay and work in the U.S. for up to a year after graduating in a job related to their field of study (students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields can get an extension for a total of three years of OPT). Students can only apply for OPT 90 days before they finish their academic program, but colleges are reporting average application processing times that exceed that.


"The bigger issue is why for goodness sakes is it taking so long," Joanna Regulska, the vice provost and associate chancellor of global affairs at the University of California, Davis, said of OPT processing times. Regulska said Davis is seeing OPT processing times averaging 100 days.

Regulska participated in a March meeting the White House convened with universities, higher education groups and employers focused on international students and their ability to work in the U.S. after graduation. "The issue of OPT came up several times in the discussion," she said. "The universities were really stressing how important OPT is, and it's important not only for students but it's important for employers. It's important for the image about the United States, it's important for attracting students."

"These delays don't help us, especially now in a situation when the enrollments are going down. This is yet another negative factor that will contribute to our image."

Read the full story at Inside Higher Ed.