,Imagine this –

The most appealing feature of U.S. college education – Optional Practical Training – could become a thing of the past?


1. What is Optional Practical Training?

According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), 
(1) Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study.    Please note that F-1 visa – also known as Academic Student visa- allows foreign students to enter the U.S.A. as a full-time student at an accredited school or language training program. 
(2) Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion).
(3) All periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT.
(4) Those who have earned degrees in certain science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields may apply for a 24-month extension of the post-completion OPT employment authorization if certain conditions are met.   For more information on STEM OPT, please CLICK HERE.

2. Who wants to end OPT program?

Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar is going to introduce a bill entitled “Fairness for High-Skilled Americans Act of 2019” to end the OPT work permit for international students.   He claims that the purpose of presenting this bill is to protect job opportunities for high-skilled Americans.


3. Where in the U.S. are the top destinations for graduates in the OPT program?

According to a Pew Research Center’s report published in 2018, they are San Jose and San Francisco.  The report also sheds a light of the fact that more than 53% of international graduates who were authorized for employment specialized in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; better known as STEM fields.


4. Facts about STEM graduates from U.S. colleges participate in OPT

(1) By the end of 2016, the number of foreign STEM graduates participating in OPT grew by 400% since the program’s inception in 2008.
(2) OPT is viewed by many experts in academia as America’s best mechanism in attracting the best minds from throughout the world.  
(3) OPT is also known as a stepping stone or pathway to attaining an H-1B visa – which enables U.S. companies to hire highly skilled foreign workers.

5. What could happen if the OPT ends?

(1) International students who are interested in working in the U.S. after graduation may choose to study and work in other countries with a more welcoming atmosphere.
(2) Many STEM-related jobs in the U.S. could go to Americans who lack solid math and science backgrounds that many foreign workers are well known to possess.   According to the results of PISA math and science tests in 69 countries in 2015-16, American students ranked 31st in the world in STEM.  
(3) Whether cultural diversity is viewed as a threat or a weakness to a country’s sustainability, it is reasonable to predict that the Trump administration’s xenophobic approach to hiring practice will only help curtail American innovation.  
(4) The world’s best human resources management companies will look to U.S. competitors to fill important job vacancies, and the global war for talent will continue to intensify.  According to the 2018 Global Talent Competitiveness Index, the 7 most talent-competitive countries in Asian countries are Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, and China.  These 7 countries are increasingly attracting international students to high academic pursuits and subsequent economy opportunities.   The same can also be said of European countries including Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, UK, Netherlands, and Luxembourg.


OPT can be the most attractive feature to international students consider when planning to come to the U.S. for an education and a better future.   OPT program is far too important to the U.S. education industry and economy development to be abolished.  Should this happen, U.S. higher education will lose its appeal and competitive edge in the global market.   This, in turn, will only exacerbate the current decline of international enrollment in U.S. schools.