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OPT Application Delays

Office of the Vice Provost

Dear students,

Cornell has been closely following the delays in receipt notifications for OPT (Optional Practical Training) and STEM OPT applications overseen by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service). We understand that the delays can place pending job offers in jeopardy and create uncertainty and high levels of stress.

We are working with our professional associations, including NAFSA and ACE, and peer institutions to suggest remedies to this federal workflow problem. We are committed to advocating for our international students' needs and actively addressing the situation including sending a formal comment letter to legislators in Washington D.C. We will remain in close touch with them, and keep you informed of any developments.

USCIS acknowledged the delays in a statement issued on January 8, explaining that the "COVID-19 pandemic and other factors" were causing the delays and stated that their workforce is "working extra hours and redistributing its workloads in order to minimize delays." They offer tips for steps that can be taken to reduce processing time leading to a faster notification of receipt.

If your case has been waiting for a receipt for more than six weeks since your application arrived at USCIS, you should email the USCIS "lockbox" at

To learn more about how the USCIS intake process dates your application's receipt, visit the International Service page on F-1 OPT.

We know that explanations for the delays will not alleviate the stress that comes with waiting. We will continue to ally with our partners and push for solutions to reduce the bottleneck at USCIS and let you know when we learn anything new.

All our best in these challenging times,

Wendy Wolford, Vice Provost for International Affairs
Laura Taylor, Senior Associate Director, International Services, Office of Global Learning