The Optional Practical Training, better known as OPT for F1 visa holders in the US is a major pull for international students who want to pursue higher education here. This allows them to experience the work environment in the field of their study and in many cases, get recruited into a US company should they decide to sponsor their H1-B work visa. However, lately new enrollment at US universities have dropped by more than 10% hugely due to the uncertainties associated with the future of OPT.
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The US District Courts in the District of Columbia have been hearing a case pertaining to the dissolution of the Optional Practical Training with an insistence that it is partially unlawful. The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers has sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with an intent to declare OPT unlawful. Existed for more than seven decades, OPT is being blamed for offering undue job opportunities to foreign students at the cost of locals.
In a separate court case initiated by the Trump administration, Immigration and Custom Enforcement is supposed to amend the existing regulations and revise the internship options available to nonimmigrant students on F and M visas. A final ruling in this respect is expected by August 2020.
Yr. 2019 also saw a massive backlog in processing requests for OPT. With a 46% increase in delays the students are losing hope and returning to their home countries without exploring OPT options.
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OPT which allows international students to work for 12 months after graduation and 24 additional months in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields has proven to be beneficial to the US as a highly skilled pool of graduates apply their knowledge and support the US economy. Should there be a hindrance to this OPT opportunity and the US is unable to capitalize on this talent pool, these students will end up taking their talents abroad where other nations would welcome these highly educated recent graduates. Consequently, most leading companies will also follow them outside of the US eventually damaging American economic competitiveness.
If international students continue to face so many hurdles in the US, the decline in international admissions will continue to rise and hurt the US as a whole.
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