Excellent EPI Analysis of Proposed OPT Extension

Many of you are aware of the fact that the Optional Practical Training portion of the F-1 foreign student visa is the “sleeper” of the tech foreign worker programs, just as harmful to American workers as the H-1B work visa. Ostensibly a practical supplement for the foreign student to pick up before he/she returns home, it has become an end-run around the H-1B cap, and would play a key role in rendering useless most of the H-1B reforms that have been proposed.

This is especially true in light of the fact that the Obama administration wants to expand OPT, beyond even the expansion previously set by George W. Bush. A judge found that the first expansion had been done improperly, by not putting the matter out for public comment. Now the White House has incorporated its new expansion proposal into a document open for public comment to comply with the judge’s order.

Daniel Costa and Ron Hira have now posted their comments, representing EPI, on the matter. They’ve made available a summary as well, but I urge anyone with a serious interest in H-1B and related issues to read the document in full. It is a tour de force, cogently explaining the (extralegal) history of the program, its impacts so far, and the very serious adverse effects that would occur if it is approved. My hat is off to Daniel and Ron.

However, there is one glaring omission — the relation of OPT to age discrimination. As I’ve often noted, in STEM it is standard to hire young foreign workers instead of older (35+) Americans, because younger workers are cheaper. Making it even easier for employers to hire new-grad (and thus young) foreign students obviously would exacerbate the already-severe problem.

There are other points that should have been included in the EPI document. One is that, even though immobility of the foreign workers comes mainly from green card sponsorship, many foreign workers will be happy to be subservient to the boss merely in the HOPE that the latter will later sponsor the worker for a green card. I’ve mentioned before a quote from Computerworld, February 28, 2005:

Most of the students enrolled in the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s graduate program are foreign nationals. The Newark-based school has so far received 208 applications for admission in computer science master’s degree programs next year, with about 165 of those applications from foreign students, said Stephen Seideman, dean of the school’s college of computing science. The foreign students “will do everything they can to stay here,” he said.

That not only means that foreign students are generally willing to work for lower pay (a green card represents huge nonmonetary compensation for them), but also their resulting  “loyalty” to the employer is hugely attractive to the employer. All this puts American workers at even more of a disadvantage in applying for jobs.

Another important point: Once the employer hires an OPT, experience in that job automatically makes the foreign worker more qualified than American applicants a couple of years later, when the employer sponsors the worker for a green card and must show that no qualified Americans could be found for the position.

All in all, a really outstanding writeup. But will DHS listen? Remember, the “public” comment is not restricted to citizens, and there are apparently tens of thousands of comments from foreign students, e.g. whole blocks of comments from those with Chinese names (PRC pinyin spelling).


5 thoughts on “Excellent EPI Analysis of Proposed OPT Extension

  1. Thanks for posting the link to the report.

    There are several possible additions to the F-1/OPT requirements that has not been considered.

    Require than anyone who enters for study, complete the degree for which he/she has a current I-20 or return home. It appears that a number of individuals not selected for H-1B or having lost their H-1B status enroll in degree programs just in order to remain in the US. This displaces legitimate students and costs the US universities money needlessly since no student pays the full cost of their education (at “real” universities, at least).

    Second, require any individual utilizing the F-1 visa program return to his/her home country for a home residency requirement (similar of that for many J-1 visas) of a duration equal to the sum of all years of study plus all OPT time before being able to apply for a work visa or other immigration status. These students have been given the privilege of attending a US institution with the expectation that they would take the knowledge gained back home to benefit their home countries. Individuals wishing to immigrate to the US would want to get back home to serve out their required residency; those actually wanting the experience would take advantage of the OPT opportunity.

    There are generally more ways to “skin a cat” than the obvious one.


    • The cost of a college degree has become absurd. The tuition is not going to the faculty. Schools now have so many administrators and staff that this number approaches and even exceeds the number of teaching faculty. There is also the fancy facilities that are being built; few of these are classroom buildings.

      There is another problem with universities. The privileged few – i.e. senior faculty and administrators – are known to use university facilities for their own companies. I have found cases where the companies do not pay market values – or even a single penny – for the use of the facilities. I have been made aware of a bankruptcy case today where the defunct company owes a university half a million for loans made by the university to the company which just happened to be started by a faculty member who is listed as a member of the management team and has a university senior administrator as a member of the board of directors.

      If this continues, there will be little reason to attend college – or even work – since income taxes keep going up.


      • I feel that if a professor starts a company based on research she did with federal grant money, the federal government should be given some share of the equity. The universities already do this.


    • Extending Trump’s recent statement, there should be a moratorium on *all* immigration (Coulter’s philosophy).

      In the event that it cannot happen,quotas/caps on all these alphabet visa types that lead to permanent residency (F-1/L-1/H-1/J-1/..) is something I have been proposing as *one* of the solutions (and is only a ‘part’ of the solution).

      Bringing F-1 down to a sane number – Say 20k (Since that is the number used in H-1 quotas to folks graduating from US educational institutions) will bring down the influx of these foreign nationals. County caps (similar to 7% that exists today in greencard applications) will restrict the influx from the same country.

      Secondly, the criteria to give F-1 should be based on those who can sponsor the college fee for themselves (similar to EB-5) and put in fraud prevention measures. Those real ‘rich’ kids from outside are very likely to go back to their countries and continue/grow their family’s business since they spend a ‘whole lot’ to get educated here and such folks less likely to get into the low paying/mundane intel/infosys type jobs. In fact, if they reallly want to expand their business in this country, they can extend their stay via EB-5 and get on the greencard/citizenship path here (EB-5 again requires putting down a huge amount as investment, and certainly not in it’s current form). If any, the EB-5’s will be compelled to ‘create’ jobs because of their investments. This keeps the immigration pipeline uniform with fewer people stuck in the ‘backlogs’

      On the other hand, we can let refugees in since that has been the fabric of our country and they could assimilate faster with EADs that they are given on arrival , unlike the indentured ‘high skilled’ folks that are exploited by employers and lawyers in multi decade green card queues and are forced to “assimilate” only with the culture/workplace of the employer that sponsored their greencards. While the former become immigrants faster and the latter will just be non-immigrants with their ‘immigrant petitions’ approved.

      Fewer job losses and diversity at the same time – Win-Win in my opinion.


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