Optional Practical Training (OPT), a temporary employment program for foreign undergraduate and grad students on F-1 visas, is the vehicle that corporate America, and more specifically the IT industry, uses to circumvent the 85,000 H-1–visa cap and to deny jobs to or displace U.S. tech workers. Its usage has reached an all-time high.
Recently, the Institute of International Education, an organization that, according to its website, believes education transcends borders, reported that during the 2017-2018 academic year, OPT permits hit a record 203,462. Read another way, 203,462 U.S. workers have either lost their jobs, as employers like Disney, McDonald’s, New York Life, Google, Amazon, etc. ad infinitum, either replace American workers or don’t even provide them the opportunity to apply for open positions.
As a final indignity, qualified but displaced Americans are routinely forced to train their overseas replacements or lose their severance packages. Consequently, for decades now, those on H-1–visas and OPT participants have helped transform Silicon Valley’s tech workforce so that today only 29 percent are U.S. citizens. Remember that “practical training” means holding a job.
Since 2008 and measured through percentage growth, OPT dominates foreign-born work authorization categories with a 400 percent increase for science, technology, engineering and math graduates since 2008. Through OPT, some foreign STEM students who initially had a 12-month limit on their work permits can now remain in the U.S. for up to 42 months. Fundamentally, what began as a seemingly innocent student visa that allowed employment under certain conditions has morphed into potentially a 3-1/2 year permission slip to remain in the U.S. after graduation.