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Letter to students who have requested OPT approval

Dean of the College Jill Dolan sent the letter below on June 11 to international students who have requested Optional Practical Training (OPT) approval from the government for summer jobs or internships.

Dear Students,

Over the past few weeks I have followed with great concern the difficult situation created by delays in obtaining Optional Practical Training (OPT) approvals. I write with an update about steps we are taking to assist you, and to answer the question you have asked about whether we are able to offer Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

We understand that OPT processing delays are connected to lengthy processing times at U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) and that they are affecting international students across the country. This is causing financial strain as well as uncertainty regarding your summer plans, along with disappointment at not being able to start your summer employment as intended.

Please know that I share your distress and that our government affairs staff is actively advocating in Washington, DC on this specific issue. We remain hopeful that many of you will receive work authorization in time to participate in your summer employment, and we continue to urge you to work with the Career Development Center to negotiate for revised work dates with your employer.

I appreciate your questions about CPT, but unfortunately Princeton is not able to offer CPT as an option for work authorization for summer 2019. For CPT to be available, USCIS regulations require that it be an “integral part of an established curriculum.” That is currently not the case at the undergraduate level at Princeton, where work experience is neither required for graduation nor eligible for academic credit. This means that to accommodate CPT, the University would need to make curricular changes that require faculty approval following evaluation by University governance bodies. We are simply not able to make a major curricular change within a few days, or even weeks. We are, however, committed to studying this issue to see whether there is a response we can propose for summer 2020. More information is available in the attached Frequently Asked Questions document.

For this summer, we have asked academic departments and administrative offices to consider if they have paid research or administrative projects that could benefit from an undergraduate summer intern. I know this is not the summer experience you hoped to be able to pursue, but it would offer an opportunity to continue learning in your field and participate in practical work experience through targeted projects.

These internships will be posted to the Student Employment website; please check it regularly as new opportunities are made available. These internships do not require work authorization as they are considered on-campus employment. We are prepared to work with Housing to make summer housing available to you, should you wish to pursue this option.

Finally, please know that student perspectives are very important to us, and we will be eager to receive your input as we explore the viability of CPT for summer 2020. Your professors and advisers, the Davis International Center staff, the residential college advising teams, as well as the University’s senior leadership all share your frustrations and disappointment, and are committed to exploring solutions so that you and other international students will not experience this in the future.

We will keep you posted as that process develops.

With my best wishes,

Jill Dolan
Dean of the College