If you are a recent graduate going for the Optional Practical Training (OPT) or a student visa holder for higher studies in the US, this information will come as good news to you.
In a bid to reduce the multi-application immigration backlog, the US government has decided to include OPT graduates and F-1 student visa holders in its premium processing service.
New premium processing options for more immigration benefits have been added under a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule. This measure would allow premium processing for more form types, giving applicants the option to pay between $1,500 and $2,500 in additional fees, to expedite their applications. This will help those looking to study in the US. Until now, only H-1 work permit applications and certain employment-based Green Cards.
- Indian students account for about 20% of total international students in the country, according to the 2021 Open Doors Report
- As per data from the Indian government, 2,11,930 Indian students were enrolled in US universities as of July 2021
- The new rule suggests F-1 visa applicants and OPT graduates are eligible for the premium processing service of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
The new measure, which goes into effect in 60 days, will extend premium processing to the various new employment, family and student applications. Form I-539 applications, which are used to apply for changes or extensions of status for most dependents (including F-1 students) will be eligible for premium processing in a phased manner. Form I-765, which is used to apply for an Employment Authorization document for OPT graduates, will also be covered in this. There will also be an automatic increase in the extension period for work permit renewals.
As of February, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was reviewing more than 9.5 million pending applications, a 66% increase from the end of earlier fiscal years, according to agency data. The growing case backlog has dramatically extended application processing delays, trapping many immigrants.
According to Ur Jaddou, director, USCIS, “We remain committed to delivering timely and fair decisions to everyone it serves. There is a foundational need to improve backlog and processing times. This is an issue that we take very seriously and it is critically important to us. Every single applicant, irrespective of the benefit they are seeking from USCIS is entitled to a timely decision. We are taking steps to ensure we are addressing case processing times in a meaningful way.”
In 2021 too, the USCIS had announced changes to F1 student visa rules as per which, foreign students need not submit several applications to prolong their non-immigrant status.
In other measures, the DHS had declared that a proposed US visa restriction on international students by the former Trump administration has been revoked. The proposed restriction would have reduced US visa durations for international students to four-year terms.
Indian students are likely to benefit from these decisions. The US government has also been stressing on the importance of welcoming back international students in recent months. When it comes to granting visas to Indian students, the country granted about 15,000 F-1 visas between October 2019 and September 2020, a significant drop of 64% from the previous year, according to the US State Department.
As per data from the Indian government, 2,11,930 Indian students were enrolled in US universities as of July 2021.