Optional Practical Training Extension

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The Optional Practical Training (OPT) program’s 17-month extension for foreign STEM students will expire on February 12, 2016 unless the Department of Homeland Security asks a federal district court for an extension. The program allows foreign students to work in the United States for a short period of time after graduation to gain experience before returning to their home country, but the extension was put on hold by a federal court earlier this year.

NumbersUSA urged its activists last month to post public comments in opposition to the proposed extension.

The OPT program allows foreign students with an F-1 visa the opportunity to work in the U.S. after they graduate to gain “practical” training. Originally the program only allowed students to work for 12 months.

In 2008, Pres. George W. Bush extended the program for an additional 17-months for students who graduated with degrees in a STEM field.

An alliance of American tech workers challenged the extension earlier this year, and in August the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down the 2008 extension saying that DHS violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) when it bypassed the public notice and comment process required before issuing the extension. The court delayed ending the current extension for six months (until February 12) to give DHS time to submit a new rule and go through the correct process.

The new rule that was submitted for public comment extended the OPT program to 35 months and received over 43,000 comments all requiring a response from DHS before a final rule could be published. The final rule must be published in the Federal Register for 60 days before going into effect. Based on the court’s February 12 deadline, DHS must have published the new rule by December 12, but has failed to do so.

DHS could ask the court for an extension to the February deadline.

The expansion allowed many companies to circumvent the caps on guest worker visas such as the H-1B visa and replace American workers with cheaper foreign student workers. The OPT graduates are exempt from payroll taxes and there is no wage requirements or visa caps on the program.

In a letter to Pres. Obama Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote, "OPT is meant to be a temporary training program, not as a bridge to a longer-term work visa or a way for employers to hire cheaper foreign labor in lieu of Americans."

A recent report by the he Government Accountability Office showed that the OPT program was operating with such lax ICE oversight that there was no way to determine how many OPTs were currently working in the U.S. or if the schools and companies were complying with OPT regulations.

Read more at The Center for Immigration Studies.

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Legal Immigration

Updated: Thu, Jun 8th 2017 @ 3:30pm EDT