The year opened with executive draft orders by the Trump administration in the USA banning all people from 7 countries who are predominantly from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. It has sent shockwaves and most of the students are alarmed by this sudden state of change in the political landscape that could change their future careers. The president also has given inputs that he may ban H-1B visas who are below the 100k salary range and it has many international students from reconsidering their travel plans to study in the US.
There are even some draft orders that are focusing on limiting the legal immigration and for protecting the American jobs and workers. Among these, there are also several provisions that are for more employment-based visas and for Optional Practical Training (OPT). It states that they will reconsider the existing ways to process the H-1B visa in a more efficient manner and make sure that the beneficiaries will be the brightest as well as the best.
It also proposes that there needs to be a change that needs to brought to the existing OPT program that is encouraging foreign students to take up work after they finish their graduation which is affecting and disadvantaging the U.S. students in the workforce. It is to protect the US citizens and to bring about integrity to the student visa program and monitor foreign students. The order aims to reverse the extension that was given the OPT employment as well as allowing the spouses of H-1B workers to have work permits by Mr. Obama in his previous stint as President. Though the bill has only been tabulated, it has not come to effect yet and there is no assurance that it will be passed.
The duration of the OPT was initially for only one year. But later in the year, 2008 DHS had approved a further extension of 17 months for all the students who are graduating with a degree in STEM which is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Again, in the year 2016, the period was extended from 17 months to 24 months for STEM graduates.
Optional Practical Training is very much useful as well as effective and a highly attractive program that allows the international students to seek employment of their choice. As it helps them to get work experience which also enriches them for their educational learning as well as recover his education expenses that have occurred. He ends up paying 20 lakhs to 40 lakhs depending on the college and the rating for his/her graduation that he must recover which is possible only by working in opt jobs. Even the employers gain by bringing in global talent and can fully explore their skillsets before both the candidate as well as the employer decide the future steps for an employment visa.
Now this STEM OPT extension was a welcome move especially for international students who are enrolled in master’s programs in computer science and engineering. The data in 2016 who are enrolled in STEM programs are Indian students who formed a chunk by a staggering 83% followed by 75% Iranian students, 40% students from Saudi Arabia and 40% were Chinese students.
The trends related to the existing OPT during all the 8 years is as the above regarding the number of enrollments. There is a hike of at least 100k more than the year 2008 when you compare to present day. Due to the increased number of enrolled trends in the recent years, it has only contributed well to the US economy.
OPT is giving global opportunities for all the candidates as it is complementing their academic curriculum with the desired practical skills. Since only a limited number of H-1B visas are being handed out to all the international students who are graduating with advanced degrees from the US, many return home after their study. Since the increase in extension of OPT came as a welcome relief as OPT provided a good opportunity to work there for more time and recover their money too.
Since OPT is helping the students to get a job, International students have contributed million and billions of money to the US economy. So, therefore, any policy that is aimed at destabilizing the prospects of the work experience will hurt the economy of US very badly and the institutions will be worst hit as they rely more on the international student admissions than the native Americans. The fee structure is also very different and double or triple the usual amount for the international student.