Over the past decade, more than a million foreign students in the US have been employed temporarily under the optional practical training (OPT) program, providing an alternative to the controversial H1B visa.
The OPT program “has become a more popular pathway” for foreign students looking to remain and work in the US, according to a new study released by Pew Research. These students are also given the chance to adjust their status and obtain an H1B visa.
The OPT program was expanded twice in the past decade — in 2008 and 2016 — as the federal government wanted to address the ‘concerns of losing students’ that were unable to obtain an H1B visa, according to Pew Research.
The previous US administration established the “cap-gap extension”, which extends the OPT period authorization for US foreign student graduates whose work authorization has expired. This extension allows foreign graduates to continue residing in the US if they are attempting to change their immigration status to obtain an H1B visa.
However, the news comes at a time that US universities are seeing the number of foreign student enrollments declining rapidly, amid the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies.
The Institute of International Education found that the number of new college students coming to the United States from overseas fell by 7% since Donald Trump was elected president.
The US issued visas to less than 400,000 international students in fiscal year 2017. That’s a 17% decline from 2016, and a 40% drop from 2015.