The US Citizenship and Immigration Services confirmed to The PIE News that there have been delays for processing receipt notices due “to ongoing coronavirus-related impacts and a recent increase in requests for immigration benefits“.
“Our employment offers are also on the line”
The receipt notice is the initial stage that occurs before an application or petition can be reviewed and adjudicated.
One postdoctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Jingjing Gao, delivered her STEM OPT application on November 21.
“I haven’t receive any receipt notice till now,” she told The PIE News.
“My initial OPT will expire on January 31. As they stated, the application has to be submitted within 60 days after the I-20 [was] issued.
“Now it’s only two weeks left for them to process if that’s true. I’m a postdoc now, I would not be able to renew my contract if I don’t have new employment authorization document [EAD] card.”
The exact number of applicants that have affected by delays remains unclear.
NAFSA has said that it is aware of the delays at the lockboxes [USCIS lockboxes are where applications are delivered]. It “shares the concern of many international students impacted”. It is in contact with the USCIS ombudsman, it added.
“As I have seen from other forum, cases arrived in Texas lockbox after end of October have no progress at all, so that should be a lot [of applications]. If my OPT expires, I’ll have to leave this country,” Gao added.
Worried OPT applicants have taken to social media using the hashtag #f1optlockboxdelay, citing issues with USCIS Lockboxes where applications are delivered in Arizona and Texas.
Other students have suggested online that it is a “large-scale problem” and the time sensitive issue is causing “despair”.
One group of F-1 international students has begun a petition regarding problems at the Dallas Lockbox in Texas.
“The current wait time for a receipt has already surpassed the filing deadline for many of us,” they wrote.
“Our employment offers are also on the line. Many of us fear that we may lose the opportunities to work in the US and have to leave the country with no fault on our own. Seeing the Dallas lockbox making no progress at all for an entire month has been extremely distressing.”
“USCIS is actively determining appropriate methods to minimise those delays while prioritising the health and safety of the agency’s lockbox workforce,” the agency said.
“USCIS recommends that applicants and petitioners submit forms online where applicable, create an online account to check the status of a case, or attach a Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, to obtain receipt confirmation by email and/or text to help decrease relevant processing times.”
Applicants and petitioners can also visit the USCIS website to determine the current processing times for immigration benefits and may seek assistance through the USCIS Contact Center about their case, it added.
During the summer of 2019, delays in processing OPT work permits led to international students missing out on work opportunities.