Recent proposed changes to the optional practical training program by the Department of Homeland Security could mean certain students and graduates could work in the United States for longer than originally allowed.
The program currently allows foreign students and graduates to work up to 29 months in the United States if they receive certain science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, degrees. According to the DHS proposal, foreign students could receive up to 36 months of OPT status, which would significantly enhance the academic benefit of a student’s experience, as well as the employment benefit available to U.S. employers, who benefit from employing these highly skilled candidates.
The OPT program, which allows foreign students or graduates to temporarily work in the United States, normally is a precursor to H-1B status and is coveted by foreign students and employers in industries such as engineering, computer technology and innovation.
The proposed changes are part of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration announced in November 2014. White House immigration adviser Felicia Escobar hinted at the new proposal in March, saying the Obama administration was considering whether the program’s time limit should be expanded.