The Obama administration is putting all its efforts to simplify the immigration rules and open US shores for global skilled immigrants. It has proposed the long overdue immigration reforms to give legal status to over 11 million illegal migrants. The government is also debating scrapping of H-1B visa cap so to have more global skilled workers coming to America.
The H-1B visa and immigration reforms could be delayed due to lawsuits and never ending debates. But amid all these, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed extending work authorization to foreign students in the US on F1 visa. It has recommended increasing the Optional Practical Training (OPT) period to 6 years, compared to current 12 months for non-STEM programs and 17 months for STEM programs.
The Department of Homeland Security has proposed 6 years OPT period to students studying STEM courses. The first 3 years on completion of undergraduate courses and another 3 years if required on completion of graduation from a US university.
Proposal made by the DHS will benefit Indian students the most since many Indians go to US on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics courses.
However, the proposal is being opposed by lawmakers and others. The Deccan Herald reported Senator Chuck Grassley of Senate Judiciary Committee saying, “Thus, under the proposed new regulation, a foreign student could work in the United States post-graduation on a student visa for a total of up to six years, completely outside of the non-immigrant employment-based visa programs, and their associated worker protections, established by Congress.”
The Deccan Herald also reported Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson who said that the move would be irresponsible and dangerous, and that the proposed regulations are still being discussed internally. Also some argue that such a move could expose foreign students to exploitation at the hands of employers and give rise to cheap labour across the country.
The final word on proposed changes is not out yet. But if these proposals come into effect, the OPT will become new H-1B with a different set of rules in place. And we will see more Indian and Chinese students heading to the US.
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