The US on Monday announced premium processing of work authorisation applications for certain categories of international students, which is likely to benefit a large number of Indian students who come to study in the US in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the premium processing of applications for OPT (optional practical training) from international students in the STEM field or its extension. The premium processing begins March 6, a media release said, adding that for some other categories, it would begin from April 3.

"The availability of premium processing for certain F-1 students, in addition to the ease of online filing, will streamline the immigration experience for a great many international students," said USCIS Director Ur M Jaddou.

"The ongoing expansion of online filing is a priority for USCIS as we continue to create operational efficiencies and increase access to the immigration system for stakeholders, applicants, petitioners, requestors and those we serve," he said.

Ajay Bhutoria, community leader figure fighting for fair immigration policies, has welcomed the USCIS announcement to expand premium processing to include certain F-1 students seeking OPT and STEM OPT extensions.

The new online-filing procedures for Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, is now available to F-1 students seeking employment authorisation in the above categories.

"This is great news for foreign students who have been facing long wait times for their OPT approvals. USCIS's announcement is expected to provide welcome relief to F-1 students seeking to obtain employment authorisation in the US," Bhutoria told PTI.

"USCIS will now accept Form I-907 requests filed either via paper form or online for certain F-1 students who have a pending Form I-765. This includes those filing under pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT and 24-month extension of OPT for STEM students," he said.

Noting that the concurrent filing of new I-765 with I-907 will also be accepted by USCIS from April 3, Bhutoria said the new procedures are expected to streamline the OPT approval process and provide greater convenience to F-1 students.

These new measures will help F-1 students obtain employment authorisation more quickly, thereby enabling them to contribute to the US economy and society, he added.