Optional Practical Training OPT to be suspended or cancelled?

The Optional Practical Training (OPT) program has been the lifeline for many international students who go to USA for higher studies. If you aren’t aware of what OPT is and how it works, read this earlier post -> Optional Practical Training OPT on F1 Visa in USA

However, if Senator Grassley has his way, the optional practical training rules and regulations are in for a major overhaul, including an ‘immediate moratorium‘ for being ‘at risk for fraud and non-compliance‘ and ‘vulnurable to abuse‘. Vinay Paramanand, shares a report on this development that could impact thousands of international students studying (or planning to study) in USA.

Will the Optional Practical Training OPT be suspended or cancelled?

by Vinay Paramanand

For all you out there dreaming of a top MBA degree and getting access to the post graduate jobs in USA, we have some news for you.

There is buzz that the practice of granting Optional Practical Training (OPT) to the F1 visa students is going to get tougher and needs “looking into” (or that is what they mean when they say it needs a “major overhaul”)

Now one may wonder what happened. Well, to start with, a one Mr. Charles Grassley, (a Senator) has expressed displeasure over how the F1 visa students are tracked and how the “foreign students” remain elusive (literally).

In his letter to the US Department of Homeland Security (for simplicity, let’s assume this as the US Government) he says:

  1. The applications for OPT have increased substantially over the years (almost an increase of 500 % from 2008 to 2013). However, he says that the rate of revoke of an OPT is only 0.06%. He feels the problem is serious enough to give sleepless nights to the authorities. He says the students are not tracked to know what they are doing post-graduation studies.
  2. The OPT rules and regulations specifically mention that an OPT is offered to a student who wishes to work related to their area of study. But the practicalities are different. Students do transition into other streams of work post their graduation studies. This is also a cause of concern.
  3. He complains that the DSO’s (Designated School Official) are bypassing the laws of the state and are conveniently offering OPT to students without doing enough background checks.
  4. The Senator also says that the OPT has certain “risks” associated with it such as Terrorism. He quotes the now famous case of Faisal Shahzad (If you are unaware of him, he is the man responsible for the Times Square car bombing) as being the result of a lack of scrutiny by the Immigration Department, Homeland Security and various other agencies involved in the OPT and H1-B visa related work
  5. Now comes the big part. The OPT has reduced the chances of native US citizens getting employment because companies or employers prefer graduate students for job offers rather than native US citizens.

The whole text or letter by Mr. Charles Grassley can be found here. (You can ignore the excessive use of legal jargon in the letter and yet get the essence of what Grassley is trying to convey)

Time to re-evaluate your priorities, become more aware of your future goals and all the hurdles that may come in the way. And yes all that is mentioned above applies to the MBA fraternity as well.

Let us try and understand what it means to International students especially for a nation like India obsessed with American degrees.

  1. While applying for a university in USA for an MBA degree, keep this in mind. Though none of this has actually translated into any concrete steps, it might increase the possibility that you’d have to return back to India, post MBA, to find work.
  2. Be aware of the OPT and H1-B aspects during your studies in the US so as to be prepared for any untoward changes in the job scenario.
  3. As a student, focus on being well-connected to potential colleagues and employers. I mean to say networking becomes all the more crucial. The better network or friends you have in the job market, the better are the chances of being recruited by companies or employers who can sponsor your H1-B Visa immediately so that you can stay in the land of your dreams.

On the other hand countries such as Canada are generous in Work Permit Programs (WPP). Usually for a 1 year MBA program a student is able to get a 1 year work permit and if you have a 2 year MBA degree then you are eligible for a 3 year Work permit, even if you have no employee sponsorship. Now that is something. In Europe the situation varies from country to country. So it would be advisable to contact your future MBA College for work permit related queries especially for a European college.

While the international student community waits for more clarity on this topic, you can take steps to reduce the impact of  the OPT status change on your post graduate career. If you are planning for an American masters degree, try to extract the most out of the internship opportunity. Read this post –> How to convert summer internships into full-time jobs.

Most of the other (non-US) countries offering Masters programs don’t have an OPT visa or equivalent. But students do well for themselves after completing their graduation.
Plan well, be aware of all the other challenges (several listed in Beyond The MBA Hype) that you may have to encounter, have a back-up in place and life will go on.

Read these related articles:
Optional Practical Training OPT on F1 Visa in USA
CPT vs OPT: Differences for international students in USA

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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin
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  1. Ramesh says:

    Hi Sameer sir,
    It is a very informative article. Hope the issue gets resolved with out increasing the risk/burden on the international students. Please keep posting such articles.

    Thank You.

  2. Sameer Kamat says:

    Thanks, Ramesh. I hope so too. The US has much to lose, along with the international students who go there and spend so much.

  3. puneet says:

    I remember from my M.tech days in US that this program was really beneficial to international students who can use this 1 year judiciously to find the right employers. US was a melting point of best immigrants from all over the world. This action further firms my belief that US is loosing the best brains and hence the immigrant american success story is dying. Sad to see how these senators are just jumping on H-1b and now OPT programs. Oh well. So long, American Immigrant Story !!

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