Is OPT in Jeopardy? Trump's Practical Training Reform Explained

There have been some troubling immigration updates last week in the rule making activity that is published by the Executive Office of the President. Of particular interest to a number of you would be a rule under consideration, entitled Practical Training Reform, that seeks to make changes to the programs allowing curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT) available to many F-1 and M-1 students.

Plans include limiting student work opportunities and terminating Obama’s STEM-OPT extension rule. The supposed goal of these policy changes is “… to improve protections of U.S. workers who may be negatively impacted by employment of non-immigrant students on F and M visas. The rule is a comprehensive reform of practical training options intended to reduce fraud and abuse.”

Note that these are just announcements; but they give you a clear indication of where this administration is headed. The proposed rule is expected to be published in October 2018.

How will this affect you?

  1. The type of work that you can do under OPT may be restricted; with the goal of opening up those jobs to US workers. This will definitely limit your earnings.
  2. OPT period may be reduced, which will not give you the opportunity for multiple attempts at H1B lottery
  3. They are also considering changes to H1B lottery, where preference would be given to  the “most skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”  OPT students do not fall into either category. So this diminished your chances of getting picked in the new system.

What should you do?

You should focus on getting a job immediately, and applying for a H1B before these policies take effect. Don't be fooled by consultancies that will apply for your job without a project - USCIS has been cracking down on such entities in record numbers with site visits and office raids. Find a legit consultancy with a good immigration track record, that will be able to train and place you quickly.

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