Optional Practical Training (OPT) and International Students After Graduation: Human Capital, Innovation, and the Labor Market

Author: 
Jeremy I. Neufeld
Date of Publication: 
March, 2019
Source Organization: 
Other

The OPT program allows international students to work in the U.S. for a limited period of time after graduation to get experience in their chosen fields of study. The regular extension is one year, but a new rule in 2016 allowed STEM majors to apply for an additional two years, for a total of three years. Optional Practical Training (OPT) and International Students After Graduation: Human Capital, Innovation, and the Labor Market looks at the impact of the OPT program on local economies and recommends reforms to allow the U.S. to draw on this talent pool for regular immigration purposes. The report finds that higher levels of OPT participants in a particular region is associated with increased innovation, as measured by the number of patents, as well as higher average earnings in that region.  However, the ability of the OPT program to function as an on-ramp to the H-1B program and eventual permanent residence is limited by the numerical cap imposed on the H-1B program. Moreover, an administration unfriendly to the program could roll back rules allowing these students to remain in the U.S. for a full three years. Because of the skill levels (59 percent had master’s degrees and 13 percent had doctorates) and specializations of the international student population (majority STEM), the authors urge adoption of a number of changes to the program, including codification of existing regulations to guard against future roll-backs, and allowing OPT participants who meet basic requirements exemption from the H-1B numerical limitations, just as employees of universities are now exempted. (American Immigrant Policy Portal)

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Citation: 

Neufeld, J. I. (2019). Optional Practical Training (OPT) and International Students After Graduation: Human Capital, Innovation, and the Labor Market. Niskanen Center. Retrieved from https://niskanencenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/OPT.pdf

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