The Obama administration has unveiled a new rule that will allow foreign graduates of American universities to work in white-collar jobs for an extended number of years.
The new rule would lengthen the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program for international students in a broad variety of careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The rule will have the effect of allowing foreign graduates of American universities to work for U.S.-based companies, initially for up to three years.
The new rule also allows OPT graduates to get a second two-year extension on their OPT work allowance if get another degree from a U.S. university, for a total of five years. Additionally, the rule requires employers to offer a “training program” to the foreign graduates.
According to the White House, the Department of Homeland Security estimates that 34,000 foreigners are currently working via the OPT program, and that the numbers will grow in the ensuing years.
While the administration pins the number at 34,000, last year Breitbart News reported that a private sector group has said the number of foreign graduates working in the U.S. via the OPT program is around 120,000.
According to that Breitbart News report, the Institute of International Education said that the number of OPT participants increased from 76,031 during the 2010-11 school year to 120,287 in the 2014-15 school year.
The Department of Homeland Security’s expansion of the OPT program comes amid outcries from American tech workers who say they are being squeezed out of their jobs and employment prospects by cheaper, foreign workers.
A group of American tech workers, as the New York Times reported, sued over the initial OPT rule forcing Friday’s new rule, which incorporated a requisite comment period.
“It’s an ongoing assault on American workers,” said John Miano, the lawyer for the tech workers and a Center for Immigration Studies expert, told the Times. Miano continues to challenge the program on appeal.
The rule claims to protect against the possible replacement or displacement of American workers by requiring their compensation be proportional to similarly situated U.S. workers, and the student may not replace and American worker. Despite the professed protections, skeptics remain.
“The expansion allows many companies to circumvent the caps on guest worker visas such as the H-1B visa and replace American workers with cheaper foreign student workers,” the limited immigration group NumbersUSA wrote in an analysis of the extension. “The OPT graduates are exempt from payroll taxes and there is no wage requirements or visa caps on the program.”
The new rule will take effect on May 10.