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University offers support to international students affected by government processing delays

Dean of the College Jill Dolan sent a letter June 11 to international students who have sought Optional Practical Training (OPT) approval from the federal government for jobs and internships this summer, sharing the University’s concern at government processing delays and outlining steps the University is taking to assist them.

OPT allows international students studying in the U.S. to supplement their education with experiential learning and on-the-job training. Because of the government’s processing delays, many of the students have been unable to begin their job or program on time and some have lost out on their position altogether. Of the roughly 90 Princeton undergraduates who applied for OPT for this summer, 18 had received government approval as of midday Tuesday.

“Please know that I share your distress and that our government affairs staff is actively advocating in Washington, DC on this specific issue,” Dolan wrote. “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.”

On May 2, Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber and higher education leaders across New Jersey sent a letter to the state’s Congressional delegation expressing concern about OPT processing delays and other obstacles their institutions face in attracting and retaining international faculty, students and staff.

For students who do not receive their OPT approval in time to pursue their summer plans, Dolan wrote that the University was working to make paid research or administrative projects on campus available through the Student Employment website. In the days since the letter was sent, several such positions have been made available through academic and administrative departments. Summer housing will be made available to students pursuing on-campus opportunities, which do not require OPT approval.

Affected students with high financial need who are experiencing a financial hardship can request limited emergency support through the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life.

Additionally, when they return to campus in the fall, affected students can meet with the Office of Financial Aid to review the summer savings expectation listed in their aid award. As part of this review, the Office of Financial Aid will replace half of any summer savings deficit with additional grant aid.   

Dolan said the University is also committed to exploring the viability of offering Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for summer 2020. The requirements for CPT, including that internships are “an integral part of an established curriculum,” are detailed in an FAQ document that accompanied the letter.

“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,” Dolan wrote.