Report: ‘Obscure’ Visa Program Makes Certain Foreign Workers Less Expensive Than American Workers

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

A new report from the Center for Immigration studies argues an obscure program has the government offering a “bonus” to employers who hire certain immigrant graduates of U.S. colleges instead of American workers.

According to CIS expert David North’s report, the Optional Practical Training program allows recent foreign graduates to retain their “student” visa status for a period of 12 months and if they graduated in a science, technology, engineering of math they can extend it for another 17 months.

That “student” status has tax implications — and good ones for the employer and immigrant according to North’s report.

He argues that since “neither the employer nor the alien has to pay payroll taxes, which are mandated on resident workers and their employers” then the U.S. ends up offering “a bonus of as much as $11,600 to employers when they hire an alien graduate rather than a U.S. graduate.”

North’s report further argues that, based on information uncovered by a recent Freedom of Information Act request more than 433,000 12-month OPT visas were issued under this program and more than 64,000 17 month extensions from 2009-2013. Based on North’s calculations that amounts in loses to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds as high as $4 billion.

“The OPT, a relatively hidden program, has become a means for those here on student visas to stay in the US as workers for years and years,” North said in a statement.

“This was not the intent of this immigration program and certainly should not be allowed to continue to be a back door into the country at a time of high unemployment and concern over the long term status of the Social Security Trust Fund,” he added.


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