The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced last week that it will set up another unit to check for student work permits of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program and student work permits. This program permits foreign students to work in the country for a year after graduation. And it is regularly utilized as a pathway to an H-1B non-immigrant visa.
STEM students get an extra two years to work in the US under the OPT program. Which frequently allows Indian students in the US to work and live there for a longer period before applying for an H-1B visa. The department estimates that there are more than 5,36,000 individuals participating in OPT programs. And the scale of it, in the context of the recent unemployment levels in the US makes it essential to bring in greater oversight.
New unit to check potential abuse student work permits & OPT Program
According to the 2020 Open Doors report, there were more than 1,000,000 international students in the US in 2019-20, of which over 50% were studying STEM subjects. Almost 200,000 students were from India, of which about 60% are estimated to be studying STEM subjects. Indians are also the biggest beneficiaries of the H-1B visas.
The unit will identify any unlawful practices and inform the proper authorities. For example, if a specific employer is utilizing the program to recruit only foreign nationals or certain nationalities to the exclusion of others.
It will be tasked with guaranteeing that the OPT programs work in a way. That is steady with existing guidelines and is not detrimental to US workers or foreign students. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is currently unable to evaluate the impact OPT has had on US workers. Also, foreign students who have acquired employment through this program, it said. The OPT Employment Compliance Unit will be committed to compliance matters. It involving wage, hours, and compensation within OPT, the OPT extension, and Curricular Practical Training (CPT). However, it will publish its first yearly report by 31st July 2021.