US Employment Authorization Logjam Broken With New Filing Process for Foreign Students
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has relieved a backlog in the Optional Practice Training (OPT) process that was preventing international students from extending their visas.
International students, or F-1 visa holders, can file online for OPT employment authorization using Form I-765 as of April 12. This option responds to a backlog of receipt notices in a lockbox system that processes OPT requests.
OPT is an extension of the F-1 student visa. OPT allows international students to work from 12 to 36 months before or after graduation.
Students, who were expecting a wait time of two to three weeks to be notified their applications had been received by the USCIS lockbox, have been experiencing wait times of three months since last year. They have been waiting even longer for confirmation and approval of their OPT applications.
Meanwhile, students reported work opportunities evaporating as employers withdrew their offers.
"Why are #Indian students not applying to US #universities as before? … The hard & depressing #students life's," wrote Twitter user "the Frustrated Indian in the USA" on February 23.
"If US Immigration doesn't allow them, restricts them, harass them with all stupid policies, reject their requests, deny them H1b visas, etc. then why should an Indian student invest a huge amount of money in the US, why not move to a better, welcoming, open opportunity student environment like Canada, Australia, or the UK?" wrote Kabir Snooka in an online chat about the processing delays.
International students have cited immigration hurdles and delays as a reason for not choosing to study in the U.S. The rate of international students enrolling in U.S. colleges and universities had been on a steady incline since the 1960s. In the past few years, new enrollments stalled and then declined.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down campuses and kept many international students in their home countries, deferring admission or studying online, further reducing enrollments.
In November, NAFSA: Association of International Educators found that the 2019-20 international enrollment declines cost U.S. colleges and universities $1.8 billion, down from a $41 billion gain in revenues from the year before. Figures are not available for the 2020-2021 academic year yet, but additional losses are expected.
In February, NAFSA recommended that USCIS remedy the delays, as students were losing opportunities.
But since the online filing, applicants can check their cases' status and receive timely USCIS announcements.
"The I-765 online filing option allows eligible students to file forms online in a more user-friendly fashion and increases efficiencies for adjudicators," said a senior official performing the duties of USCIS Acting Director Tracy Renaud. The USCIS announcement also states that "the agency will work to expand online filing for Form I-765 to additional categories" other than OPT in the future.
USCIS made other changes to ease the backlogs in the application process in February. Applications received between October 1, 2020, and May 1, 2021, will be granted because of the delays.
The delays were because of "COVID-19 restrictions, a dramatic increase in filings of certain benefit requests, postal service volume and delays, and other external factors," USCIS announced.
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Iowa’s Clark Becomes NCAA Division-I All-Time Leading Scorer for Men’s and Women’s Basketball
Iowa star Caitlin Clark became the all-time NCAA Division I scoring leader on Sunday, breaking the late Pete Maravich's 54-year-old record when she made two free throws after a technical foul was called in the No. 6 Hawkeyes' game against No. 2 Ohio State.
Clark entered the game in Iowa City needing 18 points to pass Maravich's total of 3,667, amassed in just 83 games over three seasons at LSU (1967-70).
Maravich's record fell four days after Clark broke Lynette Woodard's major college women's record with 33 points against Minnesota on Wednesday.
Clark's record-setting points Sunday came in improbable fashion. Best-known for her long 3-point shots, she instead went past Maravich after Ohio State was called for a technical foul with less than a second to go in the first half.
Clark swished both free throws to run her career total to 3,668 points; she had no immediate reaction after the second shot went through, as if it hadn't sunk in yet.
Asked in a television interview at halftime if she was aware of the record when she stepped to the line, Clark said, "Not really. When they announced it and everybody screamed, that's when I knew."
Clark got off to a slow start. Her first shot was a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim. She missed a layup and from deep on the right wing before making a 3 from the left side for her first basket.
After starting 2 for 7, she made 3 of her next 4 shots — including three straight 3-pointers, each deeper than the previous.
Woodard was among the attendees at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to help Clark celebrate senior day. Also on hand were basketball great Maya Moore, who was Clark's favorite player, and Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan.
On Thursday, Clark announced she would enter the 2024 WNBA draft and skip the fifth year of eligibility available to athletes who competed during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is projected to be the No. 1 overall pick by the Indiana Fever, and the WNBA already is seeing a rise in ticket sales.
Logitix, which researches prices on ticket resale platforms, reported an average sale price of $598 for a ticket to this game purchased since Feb. 1.
"Listen, this is the greatest ticket on the planet right now," Woodard said in an interview with ESPN before the game. "Hey, I'm going to enjoy this right now."
Clark is all but assured of one or two more appearances at the arena in Iowa City after Sunday. Iowa is projected to be a No. 2 seed for the NCAA Tournament, meaning it would be at home for the first two rounds.
Pearl Moore of Francis Marion owns the overall women's record with 4,061 points from 1975-79 at the small-college level in the AIAW. Moore had 177 points at Anderson Junior College before enrolling at Francis Marion.
Clark was 393 behind Moore as of halftime Sunday, and she has only three to 10 more games left in an Iowa uniform depending on how far the Hawkeyes advance in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
The fall of Maravich's record will be subject to scrutiny.
Maravich's all-time scoring mark is one of the more remarkable in sports history. There was no shot clock or 3-point line in his era. The 3-point line was adopted in 1986.
Maravich averaged 44.2 points per game. He scored more than 60 in a game four times, topping out at 69 against Alabama on Feb. 7, 1970.
Clark averages 28.3 points for her career and was playing in her 130th game Sunday. Her career-best output was 49 points against Michigan on Feb. 15, when she passed Kelsey Plum as the NCAA women's Division I career scoring leader.
Clark has 54 games with at least 30 points, the most of any player in men's or women's college basketball over the last 25 years. She has six triple-doubles this season and 17 in her career.
"What Caitlin's done has been amazing. She's a fantastic player, great for the women's game and basketball in general," Maravich's eldest son, Jaeson, told The Associated Press last week.
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