STEM OPT Under Fire

The Trump administration has been trying to dismantle legal immigration programs for highly skilled workers, including science, technology, engineering and math students with F-1 visas who need to get extensions following their graduations. Sources have reported that Trump’s administration is considering ending the STEM OPT program, which allows international students to stay in the U.S. and to work for a period of time after they graduate in their respective fields. An immigration lawyer may help students to understand their options so that they might obtain the work authorizations that they need.

The STEM OPT Program

Created in 2008 by the Bush Administration, the STEM OPT program is designed to help international students in the STEM fields to remain in the U.S. after they graduate for up to two years with authorization to work. The program was initiated to help the U.S. to retain highly skilled students who are otherwise unable to obtain H-1B visas. In 2016, the Obama Administration signed a rule that extended the period by an additional two years. Trump is now considering rescinding this rule.

Will the Rule be Rescinded?

Since the rule was already finalized, the Trump administration will only be able to rescind it if it can show that it is harming the U.S. economically or that it is unlawful. However, the rule has already been found to be lawful by a court that ruled that the Department of Homeland Security has the power to extend the STEM OPT program.

The Trump administration is unlikely to find reputable economists who will make the argument that the STEM OPT program harms the U.S. economically. The National Science Foundation reports that international students make up more than half of the students who are enrolled in engineering programs and more than 81 percent of the students who are currently enrolled in electrical engineering degree programs.

Companies rely on the program to get the workers they need. There are many more technical jobs available each year than there are U.S. citizens who can fill them. If the Trump administration successfully rescinds the rule that extended the STEM OPT program, the economy is likely to be weakened as companies will be left without the ability to fill their open jobs. An immigration lawyer may help students and employers to identify other types of visas for which they might be eligible if the STEM OPT program is eliminated.