USCIS currently reflects OPT processing time to take between 2.5–5 months from date of submission to approval and EAD receipt. To date, we have seen cases where students have received approvals in 100-115 days, and others that have taken nearly all 5 months to be processed and approved. We completely understand how difficult this can make your life as you navigate this uncertainty and have to communicate and renegotiate start-dates on job offers. Please keep in mind that these delays are affecting F-1 students across the country who are waiting on USCIS to process and approve their OPT applications. At the urging of Congress, USCIS recently came under scrutiny by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), who has agreed to investigate and look into why USCIS is taking so long to process these requests.
To track the number of students subjected to delays, we are collecting information from affected students. Please email your OIA adviser the following information: your name, OPT Receipt #, the date of receipt listed on the receipt notice, and a short description of your situation. We are reporting these issues anonymously through professional associations to push for even greater scrutiny of USCIS at this time. Please know that if we could do more to expedite your application, we absolutely would do so—however, USCIS deems your OPT application to be a matter between you as an individual and them as a federal agency, and they will not entertain inquiries from OIA or the University.
It is important that you remain in contact and communication with your employer about your pending OPT application. These delays are impacting all recent graduates—both students from the University of Chicago and from colleges and universities across the country. Employers are becoming more and more familiar with these delays as well, and based on reports from many of our students, have been agreeable and supportive of adjustments to start-dates, etc. If you find your employer would like corroborating evidence showing you applied for OPT on-time (e.g. 90-days in advance of your program end-date) and have a pending OPT application, please contact OIA Director, Nick Seamons (firstname.lastname@example.org), who can provide you with that information.
This year’s processing delays are unprecedented and we are working with various offices across the University and with our professional associations and organizations to advocate on behalf of our students.