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From the June 19, 2006 Edition of ISSS-BU News

(updated March 2010.)

Why Is It Taking So Long To Receive My OPT Work Authorization Card?

A number of international students who have submitted applications to the USCIS Vermont Service Center for Optional Practical Training work authorization have been contacting the ISSS to express their concern with the length of time it is taking to receive the approval. In fact, it is generally taking as long as 90 days (3 months) for the USCIS Vermont Service Center to produce the cards.

Processing times vary significantly throughout the year. Some students may experience relatively short processing times while it can take longer for others.

USCIS Service Center processing times are updated every two weeks and posted to:

While many may find these long processing times frustrating, especially if they have a job offer, it is important to remember that employment cannot commence until the card is received.

A frequently asked question is, once my application is received at USCIS Vermont and the receipt notice has been mailed, are there any circumstances that allow me to request to have my application expedited?

USCIS Expedite Criteria

The Vermont Service Center has always been strict with respect to approving requests for special processing. Individuals who are seeking expeditious handling can FAX the Center at (802) 527-4816 to request an expedite. The fax line is available 24 hours a day. Expedite requests are reviewed Monday through Friday from 8:00AM to 4:00 PM. Any expedite request must include the USCIS EAC file number, the applicant's name, date of birth, and address, complete contact information (phone, fax, e-mail) the reason for the request, and documentation from the employer or relevant source that supports the request.

All expedite requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and are granted at the discretion of the Service Center Director. The criteria are as follows:

  • Severe financial loss to company or individual.
  • Extreme emergent situation.
  • Humanitarian situation.
  • Nonprofit status of requesting organization in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States.
  • Department of Defense or National Interest Situation (Note: Request must come from official United States Government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to our Government.)
  • USCIS error.
  • Compelling interest of USCIS.

Students are strongly advised to consult with ISSS staff before requesting an expedite, because the situation may or may not rise to the standard of criteria used by USCIS. The expedite procedure must not be used for frivolous requests or requests that cannot be supported with documentation.

If a response to the expedite request is not received within 72 hours, the request is denied. The application or petition will then undergo normal processing. Only expedite requests that are approved will be acknowledged.

USCIS's own regulations state that employment authorization requests must be adjudicated within ninety days. The exception to this rule are cases for which a "Request for Additional Evidence" (RFE) also known as a "blue" letter, has been issued. In such cases, the ninety day "clock" stops when the RFE is issued, and does not begin again until the requested information is received back at the Service Center.

If you have filed an employment application and have received the receipt notice, you can check the status of your case on-line by entering your EAC receipt number. The link for case-status on line is:

Last Updated: 10/8/14