This week Justice Department lawyers defended an Obama regulation that expanded the duration of work permits foreign students with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees can obtain after graduation. A group of STEM workers led by attorney John Miano challenged the Optional Practical Training (OPT) regulation, saying it creates more job competition and reduces wages, but the Administration is stalling resolution of the case while it rewrites the regulation.
Established under the George W. Bush Administration, OPT originally provided a one-year post-graduation work permit for foreign students. It expanded to a 29-month period under a 2008 Bush regulation. Obama created a 36-month program in 2016.
The case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concerns whether a lower court should have dismissed the lawsuit brought by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech). In 2008, WashTech challenged the validity of the Bush regulation. That suit was dismissed as moot when the Obama Administration rewrote the regulation.
Miano told Bloomberg News that it appears that the Trump administration wants to retain OPT but reduced its size. Miano said OPT was “underneath the radar” when it only provided a one-year work permit.
Bloomberg reports OPT expanded from 28,497 participants in fiscal year 2008 to 136,617 in FY 2014. The program is nearly on par with the H-1B visa program. 696,914 participated in OPT FY 2008 and FY 2014. 768,214 H-1B visas were issued during the same period. And OPT participants often can obtain H-1B visas after finish their stint. Employers find it cost-effective to hire OPT workers because they do not have to pay FICA taxes as with American workers.
Updated: Fri, Mar 9th 2018 @ 5:20pm EST