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I m an international student living in LA and I recently just got a job in SF anticipated to start on January 4th. I hold an F-1 visa with a legal OPT (Optional Practical Training). I m currently in the process of moving up to SF, which is a pain in the butt since it s the holiday season.

The thing is, my mom who recently is diagnosed with cancer, is going to have her surgery on early January. I'd really love to go back home for a bit to see her before starting to work. I'm planning to do that after I'm done moving and I'm all settled. But if I do go home, I need to delay my job starting date since I need to be home at most a week (the week of her surgery).

Two questions:

  1. Do you think it s possible to travel overseas in OPT (Optional Practical Training)? I've heard stories that it's risky but I hope my reason is valid.

  2. Is it okay if I ask for a permission to delay my job start date for at most a week after the anticipated one? Will that affect my reputation at work? This is my first job right out of college and I m afraid things happen if I delay it. But then again, my reason to delay my start date is (hopefully) valid. It s not for leisure or vacation or anything fun.

Companies might have different policies and rules regarding this but I'd just like to know what your thoughts are.

What are your thoughts on this? Thank you!

  • Could you define OPT? – thursdaysgeek Dec 14 '15 at 21:44
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than nine months are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work for at most one year on a student visa towards getting practical training to complement their field of studies. F-1 students are usually permitted a total of 12 months of practical training. – vsedge Dec 14 '15 at 21:57
  • Honestly if your mom has cancer and is going through surgery I cannot imagine any employer who would stand in the way of you delaying start to visit her. Perhaps there are Visa issues, but those can usually be accommodated since we are all human beings and a life event like this is clearly not something that happens every day. – JakeGould Dec 14 '15 at 22:06
  • Not sure about the legal requirements regarding your work visa status but it is quite common to ask for start date shifts for family reasons. I did so myself once. – 2rs2ts Dec 16 '15 at 23:45
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Yes. I think you need to lay out your entire situation to new hiring manager and ask them. I hire a lot of tech grads and would be perfectly OK with delaying your start date so you can see your mother after cancer treatment. It is a big deal and you should try to be there. You would hopefully be working for an employer that understands this.

From an employer standpoint it is great you are telling me before you start working because we both don't have to do a dance of trying to figure out how to give you unpaid time off or whatever because certain vacation/FMLA hasn't kicked in. So I would very much appreciate this call.

If you are going to take this no matter what the employer has a right not to hire you if you cannot start when they need - they might have a project they need someone for that is crucial (doubt that with you being a new grad). But you can also present this as you asking for permission and really I would go this way even if you will take it without their OK. It is better to make the new employer feel that they are giving you the OK, rather than you telling them you cannot start at a time.

I would try to nail down a reasonable start date and stick to that though. If something at all comes up with your mother I would stay in touch with the hiring manager and give updates but not expect the company to be as considerate if you keep moving dates.

  • Thank you very much for your answer. I appreciate you for understanding my situation. – vsedge Dec 14 '15 at 22:11
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I'm assuming this situation is new and not something that could have been discussed during the determination of your start date. Seeing your mother now compared to starting your job and being anxious about if/when you will see her later is a lot of stress and anxiety.

Tell your employer the circumstances and, unless they have commitments already in place that depend on you, you are likely to get the start date extension. They probably want you 100% focused and engaged, so don't try to cut the extension time short to "get back quick" if it will leave you unprepared or distracted.

If knew about it but avoided discussing this during your new hire negotiations you should probably state that your anxiety made the discussion difficult and you should have mentioned it. Now you are "requesting" an extension. Again, an employer should probably understand your anxiety, but this is not a great situation. New information is an opening to negotiate, while undisclosed information is complicated.

I had an employer agree to a 6 week start-date extension for family reasons less substantial than yours, just for a point of reference.

  • Thank you very much for your answers. Yes I've been very anxious about this situation and the news of my mom having her surgery comes right after I got my offer letter (with the anticipated date written there). So it's quite a sudden news. – vsedge Dec 14 '15 at 22:12
  • I'm sorry to hear of you mother's condition. Tell the company the news (professionally) and your need of extra time. Ask them to provide as much of an extension that you think you will need, and maybe a day or two extra. You already have a job offer - the worst that happens is they deny the request - but they really shouldn't. This is the most flexible point in most employment relationships. – Jim Dec 15 '15 at 0:21
  • For the employer to have commitments in place that would be derailed by a new hire starting a week later seems risky for the employer, to say the least. Any number of things can happen especially for someone who recently graduated that makes them not quite as productive at the job as planned when they first get there. Unless it's truly a rote job (low-level office assistant or similar), no employer should expect a new hire to be productive soon enough that a one week delay would be anything more than a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things. – a CVn Sep 18 '16 at 19:44

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