Optional Professional Training (“OPT”), a program which allows foreign graduates in the USA to work after completion of their undergraduate and graduate coursework, is believed to be at risk, according to the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf.
OPT allows foreign students to work legally for up to three years, in the case of graduates from STEM programs (science, technology, engineering or math), and is an important bridge in the transition from college life to the possibility of obtaining a job offer leading to an H-1B visa, or a possible green card under categories EB-2 or EB-3 through the PERM program, for example.
Attorney Renata Castro, who represents a large number of F-1 visa holders, who are in the USA with the expectation of turning their dream of working in the USA legally and permanently into reality, believes that “this adverse maneuver from the Trump presidency which will likely limit foreigners’ access to the US job market, should act as a warning to anyone in the USA without permanent status – the time to act is now!”.
More than one million international students were enrolled in the USA between 2018-2019, and they form about 5.5% of students seeking an undergraduate or graduate degree, according to the Department of State, entity responsible for the issuance of visas. More than half of these students are enrolled in STEM degrees.
On May 14, 2020, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – ICE – published a memo informing students who graduated remotely, even those who were outside of the USA, could still be eligible for OPT, although it is unclear whether they must be physically present in the USA in order to pursue the benefit. It was also unclear whether there would be extensions or suspensions of OPT-related deadlines.
Some students, such as those visiting Brazil, if currently abroad, are not allowed to fly directly into the USA absent those who fall into exceptions, as a result of a proclamation signed by President Trump as a control measure of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to emphasize that employment-based programs such as categories EB-2 or EB-3 under the PERM program remain available for individuals of all nationalities.
You can sign a manifesto organized by NAFSA in support of OPT by clicking here.
If you are currently in the USA under an F-1 visa, or in your OPT period, our immigration law office is ready to take action with you in designing a viable immigration plan to allow you to live and work in the USA permanently. Click here to get started.