A recent report by the Pew Research Center shows that more foreign students are using the Optional Practical Training (OPT) visa program to gain employment and stay in the U.S. until they can receive an H-1B visa. This prevents many American graduates, who attended the same colleges and universities, from being hired in those fields.
According to the Pew study almost as many OPT visas were awarded as H-1B visas from 2008-2014. From FY08 to FY14, 768,214 H-1B visas were awarded while 696,914 OPT visas were approved.
Pew analysis of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data shows that this trend may continue to grow since more than 1 million foreign students studied at U.S. higher education institutions in the 2015-2016 school year, a record high.
The OPT program was created to allow 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. Originally the visa only allowed graduates to stay for 12 months. Last year an extension was passed so that students in STEM fields could stay for up to 36 months.
This gives businesses enough time to apply and receive an H-1B visa for the foreign students so that they can stay and continue to work in the U.S. While American STEM graduates struggle to find jobs, OPT visa holders are often courted by tech companies since they are exempt from payroll taxes and there is no wage requirements or visa caps on the program.
Read more on this report at The Pew Research Center.
Updated: Fri, May 19th 2017 @ 10:57am EDT