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Optional Practical Training in 2021: What to expect

Optical Practical Training
Will the Optical Practical Training continue to receive strong support under a Biden administration? Source: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

A major appeal of studying in the US for many international students is the opportunity to work after they graduate. The country, however, has been losing its lustre as the Land of Opportunities among international students due to tighter immigration restrictions under the Trump administration.  Trump said he would put American workers first when it comes to boosting wages and creating jobs, while immigrants would be chosen “based on merit.” Trump also issued a broad executive order on June 22, 2020, suspending the issuance of four types of visas, including the coveted working visa H-1B visa — but what about the Optical Practical Training?

Optional Practical Training may continue to receive strong support

The Optical Practical Training is not expected to be under threat under the Biden administration. Under the Optional Practical Training (OPT), international students who graduate from a US university may work in the country for 12 months — plus an extra 24 months if they are in STEM fields. “The one programme that is likely to get strong support under Biden is students, so OPT, including the Obama STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) extension, which was under constant threat during the Trump administration, is now safe,” said Jeffrey Gorsky, senior counsel at Berry Appleman & Leiden and a former State Department attorney, to Forbes. Despite the appeal of the OPT and STEM OPT, many students still hope to gain H-1B status to work in America long-term.

“Like others, international students need to see a change in rhetoric and policy to show they are welcome in the US,” Jill Allen Murray, the deputy executive director of public policy at NAFSA: Association of International Educators, was quoted saying. Murray said how the Biden administration restarts visa processing and reopens the country broadly to temporary visa holders will matter. “We are asking international students to put their trust — in addition to a considerable investment of time and money — in the US. At the minimum, they need to know that if they are admitted to a US higher education institution that they will be able to get a timely visa interview (or waiver or online interview) and have a transparent way to check on the processing time of that visa.” Biden has also pledged to reverse the ban on the entry of individuals from predominately Muslim countries.

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