In a May 31, 2012 letter, Senator Charles "Chuck" Grassley (R-Iowa) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) "to fully investigate the use of OPT, including who uses it and how students are tracked, determine what weaknesses exist, and suggest ways to improve the procedures and policies that govern its administration."
In his letter, Sen. Grassley expressed concerns related to F-1 student Optional Practical Training (OPT), including whether DHS is properly overseeing OPT, what impact OPT might have on U.S. labor, and whether there are "loopholes" in the system that can compromise U.S. security. Sen. Grassley then asked GAO to address the following questions:
- What potential risks exist in the OPT program, and is it being administered securely and effectively by the Department of Homeland Security?
- What measures, if any, has the Department instituted to prevent and detect fraud and abuse in the program, and what steps does the Department take to ensure the success of these measures?
- What controls has the Department implemented to ensure that educational institutions are complying with OPT requirements, and what actions does the Department take to ensure compliance with these controls?
- What guidance, if any, does the Department provide to educational institutions regarding their oversight responsibilities in OPT?
- How do employers identify students in OPT for employment opportunities?
- What process did the Department undertake when expanding the STEM fields in May 2012 to ensure that it was complying with its own criteria for including new degree programs on the list?
- Does employment with a temporary staffing agency make a student eligible for OPT, and if so, how is such employment directly related to a student's area of study?
In response to the request from Senator Grassley, on February 27, 2014 GAO published a report with recommendations to DHS regarding the OPT program.