For some international students, post-graduation visas are now more attainable than ever before.
On April 4, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a new rule that allows qualified international students pursuing a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics to apply for an extension of the time they are allowed to work in the U.S. after graduation.
Under the new rule, certain students are eligible to receive up to 17 months extension of post-graduation Optional Practical Training, temporary employment directly related to an F-1 visa holder's major area of study. Under prior rules, an F-1 student was authorized to receive up to 12 months of practical training either during their summers or after graduation.
This new rule came four days before USCIS announced that they would no longer accept anymore H-1B visa applications. This type of visa allows students to work in the country after graduation.
Typically, a student would apply for an H-1B working visa the April following their graduation. Until that point, these students would use OPT time to work during the summers and after graduation.
In recent years, however - and especially last year - getting the visa has become harder and harder. The cap was set at 65,000 applications this year, similar to previous years despite discussions in Congress to raise the cap.
"I don't understand why this country has to make it so hard for people who are willing to go the legal way and are just trying to gain experience," said Kate, a College senior whose name was changed because of the sensitivity of the issue.
With these two announcements coming right after each other, some liberal arts students, who will not be eligible for the extension, are not pleased.
"I understand why they don't include liberal arts fields in the extension rule, but it's just really frustrating," Kate added. "I really want to work in DC, but none of the jobs I find will sponsor me because of these visa issues."
Engineering students, on the other hand, are grateful for the new rule.
"The OPT extension really helps me, as STEM jobs are simply not as widely available in my home country as they are in the U.S. I think this is the case for many international students," said Joan Jose Martinez, an Engineering junior from the Dominican Republic.
According to the Office of International Programs, while many international students are in the STEM category, there are just as many studying business - a fact that bothers Wharton students.
"It's annoying that business students aren't under this umbrella of students allowed to get extensions, but it's good that they're at least giving the option to some students," said Wharton sophomore Nathalie Zogbi. "I hope it's an initial step toward opening up the possibility for more students in the future."
While there is no definitive answer as to why only STEM students are allowed to apply for extensions, there is a general consensus that it comes out of homeland security issues, said Rudolph Altamirano, director of OIP.
"In making this rule, the government is thinking of international interests. STEM studies are a prominent field because of their importance to the United States," Altamirano said.Comments powered by Disqus
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