The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ April 8 ruling to grant extensions of up to 17 months to foreign students with “optional practical training,” or OPT, cards is not as all-inclusive as first appears, immigration attorney James Nolan told GlobalAtlanta.
The cards have enabled foreign students to hold jobs for 12 months, either while they are studying or following their course of studies. The April 8 ruling appears to enable them to stay for 17 more months.

But, according to Mr. Nolan, they should not jump to conclusions.

“Not all students can get more time. Immigration has clearly said that only certain types of students can do so. These have to be majoring in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Business, art, literature, and economics majors are out of luck,” he said.

Mr. Nolan also said that the businesses hiring students with F-1 visas would now be required to enroll in the agency’s E-Verify program.

“The E-Verify program used to be voluntary, but now if the company wants to have F-1 students extend their stays they must sign a nine-page contract and master a 70-page user manual. They also will have to register every foreign student from the time that they start” the program, he said.

Citizenship and Immigration Services also is to grant a limited extension for OPT students, Mr. Nolan said. This limited extension is for students who are working while waiting for
H-1B visa approval. The H-1B visa permits foreign workers to be hired for jobs in certain industries.

If an H-1B visa case is not picked for the lottery and the student’s OPT card has expired, the student will have to leave the U.S. within 60 days, according to Mr. Nolan.

In addition, Mr. Nolan said that he is telling his clients who want to file applications for
H-1B visas not to bother until March 31, 2009.

“The limit for all normal H-1B visas has been reached as of April 7,” he said. “If you filed your case and it was delayed in the mail and didn’t get there by April 7, you are out of luck.”

He also said that it would be a few weeks before applicants would learn whether their cases had been chosen by the agency for consideration.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...