Renewing student visa on OPT


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I am doing my PhD in Engineering in the US, and had to return to India in Nov 2012 without finishing my PhD because of family emergency. My student visa had expired in July 2012 itself, and I had got I-20 extended until Nov 2012. When I left in Nov, my post-completion OPT was under processing (I was expecting to graduate in Dec).

Since I have been in India, I have not yet graduated, and am now wanting to go back to the US. I could not go to US till now because my OPT had not arrived. My OPT just arrived, and now I am thinking about going for F1 visa interview in early May at Mumbai consulate.

I am a little worried. Can my visa be denied at this point? I do not have a job offer in hand to be able to re-enter the US. I may be able to obtain a job as a volunteer in the next few days, but that's about it.

I obviously have to go to the US and finish my PhD degree requirements. Please let me know if there could be problems during the F1 interview or at the port of entry, and what my options are at this point. Thank you.

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Thanks for your answer.

I want get some things clarified before going to an attorney. Like I mentioned, I will get a job as a volunteer with my professor itself (who is my PhD advisor). And we can certainly make it clear that the job is important part of my training education.

And isn't the fact that I have not graduated still, in my favour, if anything? It seems like it is certainly a fair call to seek a student visa when degree is not completed, and a family emergency warranted travel out of the country.

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If your are going to help out your professor and you have not completed your Ph.D. and graduated, then the correct course of action would seem to be withdraw your (post completion) OPT employment authorization (immediately, before it is approved, so you could re-apply after you graduate), get a new I-20 from the university for returning and finishing your Ph.D. degree, and then get a F-1 visa (stamping) under that new I-20. (Note: You would still be on a F-1 visa when working under OPT, as it is employment authorization, not a visa or other status.)

You can help out your professor for up to 20 hours a week on a F-1 visa without using OPT for the degree level. If not, then you will not have an opportunity for OPT once your graduate.

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Universities generally have very strict employment requirements. Your prof cannot "employ" you without following certain procedures. Often they are not familiar with the rules and make promises to international students that cannot pass the requirements. Foreign born profs are particularly inclined to try to assist their countrymen and go around the rules.

You need to arrange to finish your degree. Contact the DSO - NOT your advisor - about reinstating your I-20 and getting your OPT straightened out.

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Well, my OPT has already been issued, and I have the card in hand. My understanding is that once OPT card has been issued, canceling the OPT is next to impossible (and very time consuming if at all possible). Is that correct?

I also talked to the DSO of my school and he said that there's no way a new I-20 can be issued to me. The question I got was, "on what basis will we issue you a new I-20?". And also, assuming that I manage to get a new I-20, wouldn't I have to enroll full time again? I only need 2-3 months over the summer to finish off my work. My main goal is to be able to go there, finish my work, and look for job based on the OPT in hand if possible.

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