• OPT extension beyond 29 months and new OPT majors with Obama's Executive action?

    According to Obama's Executive actions OPT program will be affected. White house directed DHS and USCIS to work on expanding and extending OPT program.

    Obama's Executive action for OPT students

    Let us go through the following text about Obama's Executive action on OPT Program. Below text is on white house website about OPT Program and STEM graduates.
    Strengthening and extending on-the-job training for STEM graduates of U.S universities. In order to strengthen educational experiences of foreign students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at U.S. universities, DHS will propose changes to expand and extend the use of the existing Optional Practical Training (OPT) program and require stronger ties between OPT students and their colleges and universities following graduation.

    Jeh Charles, secretery of Homeland Secuity, sent the following instructions to USCIS and DHS.

    Reforming "Optional Practical Training" for Foreign Students and Graduates from U.S. Universities

    Under long-standing regulations, foreign nationals studying in the United States on non-immigrant F-1 student visas may request twelve additional months of F-1 visa status for "optional practical training" (OPT), which allows them to extend their time in the United States for temporary employment in the relevant field of study. OPT, which may occur before or after graduation, must be approved by the educational institution.

    This program provides important benefits to foreign students and the U.S. economy. Foreign students are able to further their full course of study in the United States and gain additional, practical experience in their fields by training in those fields with employers in the United States. In turn, foreign students put into practice the skills and education they gain at U.S. universities to benefit the U.S. economy. By regulations adopted in 2007, students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are eligible for an additional 17 months of OPT, for a total of 29 months. This extension has the added benefit of helping America keep many of its most talented STEM graduates from departing the country and taking their skills overseas.

    The OPT program should be evaluated, strengthened, and improved to further enhance American innovation and competitiveness, consistent with current legal authority. More specifically, I direct that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and USCIS develop regulations for notice and comment to expand the degree programs eligible for OPT and extend the time period and use of OPT for foreign STEM students and graduates, consistent with law. I am also directing ICE and USCIS to improve the OPT program by requiring stronger ties to degree-granting institutions, which would better ensure that a student's practical training furthers the student's full course of study in the United States. Finally, ICE and USCIS should take steps to ensure that OPT employment is consistent with U.S. labor market protections to safeguard the interests of U.S. workers in related fields.
    When you read through above text about OPT Program, we can say Obama's intention is to extend Optional Practical Traning beyond 29 months and Adding new majors to OPT. But the statement by Whitehouse is Vague and not clear enough to conclude that OPT program will be extended beyond 29 months for sure. But, new majors like Bigdata, Analytics and technical courses from Business schools may get added to OPT extension program.

    Currently students in US Universities will get OPT for 12 months initially and 17 months extensions after that if they are from listed STEM majors. If one want to continue in USA beyond 29 months, they need to get employer sponsored H1B visa. Due to recent H1B Visa lottery many of the foreign graduates are not allowed to work in USA after the 29 months OPT duration.

    From long time IT Giants like Microsoft, Facebook, Google requesting US govt to allow foreign born US Graduates to continue to work without restrictions after graduating from US University. Obama's decision will make tech industry happy if he allows BS/MS/PhD students to work without restriction.

    Also Read: Obama's Action plan: EADs for H1B Employess and spouses waiting on Greencard
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