F1 visa students may be allowed to work for 6 years in the USA, like H-1B visa holders
The Barack Obama administration seems to be in overdrive to give additional benefits and work permits to legal residents.
Close on the heels of granting work permits to certain H-4 visa holders who meet eligibility requirements, come news of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) moving forward with proposals to expand the work authorization period for international students on F1 visas once they graduate, known technically as OPT (Optional Practical Training), and make it the same as for H-1B visa workers: a total of six years.
During this period of time, students are allowed to take up any work in their field of study and be paid for it, or not be as a trainee, as the case may.
Many students, however, are forced to go back to their country of origin; cannot afford further studies at exorbitant tuition rates. Some do end up studying further, in hopes their fortunes will change in the next round of application for a work visa. But there is no guarantee plans will work out.
The DHS, it seems, now want to make it a level playing field for F1 students, and give benefits startlingly equivalent to H-1B visa holders.
According to new regulations proposed by the DHS and submitted before the Senate Judiciary Committee, students with STEM degrees can stay on in the US and work for a total of six years under OPT – three years after finishing an undergraduate program, and then if need be, another three years after a graduate program
However, there is also little doubt that many of these students may get exploited by employers, be used as cheap labor, without getting benefits too.
Since the student would be under OPT status, the employers would have a different set of rules for them, perhaps treat these students as a trainee or part-time employee for years, not be obliged to provide health insurance, 401K or other benefits.
It’s also unfair that the Obama administration and Congress have not been able to increase work visas – they are still at 85,000, but let hundreds of thousands of graduates annually the liberty to stay on in the country, and pick up any work they receive, for period of three years. It’s bound to undercut American jobs and wages sooner than later.
It’s absurd, but the very companies who may sponsor a student for an H-1B visa and promise full wages as per law, may still continue to employ that student as an unpaid trainee if the H-1B application fails. That frankly, is ridiculous, and should not be allowed.
Also, the demand for H-1B visas will soar exponentially, to the extent that it may well go up by 100% next year if the new rules for F1 students go into effect this year, and perhaps only 1 out of every 10 candidates may get a H-1B work visa, leaving many talented workers to lose out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The DHS proposals for F1 students, if they come through, will undoubtedly also see many more students, especially from India and China, flock to the US.
It must be clarified that OPT is applied for a foreign student on an F1 visa once he or she graduates from a program from an accredited educational institution.
There is another work option for F1 visa students while still enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program: termed Curricular Practical Training (CPT). This CPT option can be used for credit(s) that can be applied to a program per semester, but has to be relevant to the program and directly relate to it; it has to be approved by the department of study too. CPT has to contribute to knowledge and experience of the student in his or her field of study.
F1 visa students can be paid legitimately too while under the CPT, although work hours are limited to 20 hours per week.