US Plans To Extend Work Permit For F1 Visa Students

Giving a boost to the F1 visa, the U.S. proposes to increase the work permit limit. As per the new regulation, foreign students may be able to work for a total six years.

In a major initiative to provide benefits, the Barack Obama administration intends to formalize the extension of the work permit to F1 Visa holders in order to meet the demand for skilled workers in the tech industry.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has prepared the plan to authorize the work period after graduation. It is known as Optional Practical Training (OPT).

According to the new rule, non-STEM students would get the similar benefits of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) category. The new work permit allows non-STEM students to fetch a three year duration if they had a STEM degree before. Students who have a bachelor degree in STEM majors are eligible for a three years of work permit. They can opt for a master’sdegree, then, and can work for another three years after the degree.

Earlier, students who wish to stay in the US had to get the companies to sponsor them with H-1B visa during the Optional Practical Training period. If they don’t get lucky in the lottery pull for H-1B visa, students would study further, stay as a legal resident and try again for the work visa.

As per the new DHS rule, a student with a bachelor degree in IT or Physics ends up in Non-STEM master’s degree such as MBA, then that student would get three years of Optional Practical Training. It will be decided as per the bachelor degree program obtained by that candidate. Analysts agree that the new mechanism will allow maximum time for the students to find a job and get a permanent residency.

But the problem lies with the unseen exploitation factor. Under the OPT, the students employed will have a different framework deal with. They might be considered as trainee or part-time employees for which all health-insurance and other benefits won’t be applicable to them.

There is also a chance that there would be a strong undermining of American jobs and wages due to the available cheap labour in the form of foreign students. While an American fetches USD 75,000, a foreign student as a trainee might end up with USD 12,000 a year. A huge difference. There is also a chance if the H-1B visa fails, students might remain as unpaid trainee.

Opposing the new regulation, Chuck Grassley, Chairman, Senate Judiciary, has sent strong vibes to the government. In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, he made concern that this is a ‘shadow’ guest worker program and would mimic the H-1B visa program. He said, “The proposed new regulations, while still being internally discussed, are irresponsible and dangerous considering the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued in March 2014 finding that the program was full of inefficiencies, susceptible to fraud, and that the Department was not adequately overseeing it.”

There is already a lawsuit filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia related to the OPT program which is responsible for creating an unfair competition. Filed by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, it states that the cheap foreign workers are threat to the American labour.

The new proposal by DHS is a sure shot hit among Indian and Chinese students.

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