Rep. Paul Gosar (R.-Ariz)
Rep. Paul Gosar (R.-Ariz)


A Republican Congressman, Paul Gosar (R-Ariz), is introducing legislation that could end the 20-year-old OPT program, which allows foreign graduates to work in STEM fields while still on their F-1 student visas for as long as 36 months, and allows all other foreign graduates to work in their field of choice while still on their F-1 student visa for 12 months.

The legislation would end the optional practical training program, a program frequently used as a pipeline to the popular H-1B specialty occupation visa. Not surprisingly, the bill faces staunch opposition in the House as the Democrat Majority is still sparring with the Trump Administration on providing the necessary funding to DHS and HHS to reign in the detrimental effects of the humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border. Congressman Gosar’s stance on immigration and border security has earned him high marks from several low-immigration advocates, including NumbersUSA, who has given him an overall A+ on his Immigration-Reduction Report Card for his work in promoting sensible immigration reform.

In addition to his proposed bill, Congressman Gosar also wrote a letter to President Trump asking him to end the program by executive order, explaining how OPT is harming job prospects for Americans in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, stating:

Today U.S. universities attract foreign students on the promise of education and five years of tax-free OPT employment. Major corporations and the media would have you believe that there are not enough U.S. citizens to fill positions being filled by foreign workers today. But, the truth is, millions of American citizens are ready, willing and able to take those jobs, they just need a chance at employment. OPT removes that chance for millions of Americans.
Mr. President, American educated professionals and graduates need your support, protection and leadership. We encourage you to end OPT by Executive Order and put Americans first.

Unlike the H-1B visa program, there is no limit on how many OPT workers can be hired in a given year, the program also does not carry the same level of oversight and U.S. worker protections, and both employers and employees who take part in the program are exempt from Federal Insurance Contributions Act taxes (Social Security and Medicare). Bloomberg Law reports:

The 15.3% tax discount for hiring OPT workers instead of U.S. workers makes them more attractive to businesses, according to the American Workers Coalition. The coalition, formed by Marie Larson, Barbara Birch, and Hilarie Gamm, aims to scale back visa and other foreign worker programs it says are harming STEM job prospects for U.S. workers.

Although regulations allowing one year of OPT for foreign graduates were initially issued in 1992, American workers began to cry foul when President George W. Bush extended the post-graduation work period for STEM graduates to 18 months. After President Bush’s regulation was overturned due to a lawsuit by a group of displaced U.S.-born tech workers, President Barack Obama extended the program in 2016 to allow OPT up to three years for STEM graduates. Many argue that the program keeps U.S.-born STEM graduates and other tech workers from being able to find a job in their field of study, especially given the tax incentive to employers to hire foreign graduates.

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Updated: Fri, Jun 28th 2019 @ 10:55am EDT