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F1 Students: Have you received an RFE on an OPT application?

As an immigration attorney, I often get calls from students who have received an RFE, and sometimes a second RFE, on an OPT application.  They are searching for immigration attorneys to help respond.  I explain to them that responding to an RFE is often not as straight-forward as providing what is being requested.  Often times, the documents requested indicate a deeper problem in proving a fundamental element of the OPT requirements.   Perhaps they are suspecting CPT abuse and require proof of addresses. Perhaps they want to know if you have maintained a full-time student course load as required for F1 visas. Or maybe there is a discrepancy in your F1 and OPT application, and for immigration purposes, discrepancies raise suspicion of fraud. Whatever the matter, the application must be responded to thoroughly. An attorney, no a GOOD immigration attorney, is necessary.

In any case, often the client raises the objection for fees, and always with the same reason “I am only a student.”  I am going to write in this blog post, what I do not have time to explain to people who consult with me over phone.  The issue that I have with students does not have anything to do with the fact that they have lack of money. It’s the lack of experience.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I was a student once, too. I remember what it is like.  Free food is the best marketing tool for student organization meetings, and saving a buck or two is worth spending a half hour planning. You skip luxuries and even manage to skimp on certain ‘necessities.’  I know.  I get it.  But think for a minute. What is the whole purpose you have decided to attend college in the US, to pursue whatever degree you are pursuing? My guess is – to secure a brighter future – right?  Now your whole future in the US hinges on your immigration status.  And after all of the work and effort you have put into it, you still decide to self-file an OPT application.  And sometimes even respond to the first RFE by yourself.  Then, when you are in deeper trouble, facing a ‘do-or-die’ situation, you call an attorney, and even then, some object to the fees being too high?  Really?

What this tells me is that the problem isn’t really lack of funds.   The real problem is lack of experience.  Many students have yet to experience the problems that a badly prepared immigration application can cause.  They haven’t been in the position where they are looking at a rosy 80-90k paying job hinging upon the decision of a difficult H-1b application.  They have not had to deal with immigration law, and immigration attorneys.  So far, the international student office has been filing everything for students, for free.  So many students do not value their immigration status yet because they have not had the required experiences to value it.

To make matters worse, most students ask for advice from other students, who also have not had the required experiences to understand the critical importance of their immigration applications, and of choosing a good immigration attorney.

When I think of F1 students, it reminds me of little baby turtles, who hatch in the sand, and face their first hurdle of making it through to the water. Many perish.  Those who make it still have a long way to go and many struggles before they become free flowing adult turtles.  But once they are adults, life is great.  They have few predators (other than humans of course) and live a very long life.  The OPT application is your first hurdle.  Believe me, there are many more to go before you are able to be a US Citizen.  So make wise decisions.  The $100-$200 you are trying to save on the very critical application isn’t really worth it in the long run.

I wish you all a very bright future. May you all become adult turtles swimming freely.  And I hope that you never have to look back and regret key decisions you make regarding your immigration applications.

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