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International students face lengthy visa delays

While the restrictions imposed on refugees and asylum seekers at the U.S. southern border have received more widespread media attention, others in the U.S., including international students and workers, are also facing escalated problems as they aim to remain in the country. Students and new graduates who have attended university in California are facing lengthy delays or even denials when applying for visas to complete necessary training and launch their careers. For example, international medical residents coming from countries as close as Canada or as far as China have been delayed in their education by immigration hold-ups.

Medical residents and other trainees need OPT, or Optional Practical Training, visas in order to go through the next stage of credentialing. Without an OPT visa, a medical resident cannot see patients and provide medical care. At one large teaching hospital, over 900 international students applied for OPT visas for their medical residencies. However, only 400 have been approved. The delays have hindered students at highly selective universities like Harvard and MIT where the international students involved have already been found to be some of the most promising at a global level.

Immigration attorneys have noted that the problem is found nationwide as well. In the past, students would wait around three months or less for an OPT visa approval. If the visa was not approved in that time, students could even go to a local office to get it handled in person. Now, the local office process has been eliminated, and standard processing times range from five to seven months.

Many people are highly concerned about the administration's policies on immigration, especially policies that could make life more difficult for international students. People may work with an immigration law attorney to find out how they can protect their rights and pursue the visa that they need.

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