Updates on Challenges to OPT

  • Possibility of executive action that could curtail OPT. (May 31, 2020) We are hearing concerning news that an executive order or proclamation to curtail OPT may be issued by week's end. See, for example, this Inside Higher Ed article. Please review the options below and consider taking action today or tomorrow – time is of the essence. Here are some talking points on OPT that you may find useful.
    • 1st – If you live in a congressional district represented by a Republican member of the House of Representatives, please write to your member of Congress' immigration staff asking that they sign onto the Stivers letter on OPT. You sign up with NAFSA's Connecting Our World to get your congressional staff's email address and a template message (we'll make every effort to respond a.s.a.p. rather than in the usual 2 to 3 days).

    • 2nd – Please review this list of individuals who participated in a recent conversation with Pence. If you happen to know colleagues at these institutions, we need your help! Please reach out to them and ask that their leadership urge Vice President Pence to protect OPT.

    • 3rd – A number of university associations are asking for their presidents to write to the White House and urge them to protect OPT. We support this effort and urge you to encourage your president to reach out to support OPT."

  • On June 2, 2020, 21 House Republicans sent a letter to the Departments of Homeland Security and State in support of international students and Optional Practical Training (OPT). The letter, strongly supported by NAFSA, cites the many contributions of international students and scholars and encourages the Trump administration to maintain OPT.
  • NAFSA joined ACE and other higher education associations (May 19, 2020) and 324 members of the business community (May 21, 2020) in letters that urge the White House to consider international students and their positive impact on the U.S. economy when reviewing non-immigrant programs such as the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program-a key factor in attracting students from around the globe to the United States.
  • In a May 7, 2020 letter to the President, Republican Senators Cotton, Grassley, Cruz, and Hawley recommended that "the United States ought to suspend its Optional Practical Training (OPT) program" to promote economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Section 6 of Proclamation 10014 of April 22, 2020 specifies the following additional measures: "Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers." There is concern that DHS will include OPT-specific recommendations in the recommendations it sends to the President.
  • See NAFSA's WashTech litigation page for updates on that long-standing court challenge to OPT

Practical Training Reform Rulemaking Item in the DHS Regulatory Agenda

In Fall 2017, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) added reference to a proposed rule titled "Practical Training Reform" to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Regulatory Agenda. This page will track developments on that item.

  • Fall 2017 agenda. Target date 10/00/2018. RIN 1653-AA76. Abstract: "ICE will propose this rule to improve protections of U.S. workers who may be negatively impacted by employment of nonimmigrant students on F and M visas. The rule is a comprehensive reform of practical training options intended to reduce fraud and abuse." Statement of Need: "ICE will prepare this rule to improve protections of U.S. workers who may be negatively impacted by employment of nonimmigrant students on F and M visas. The rule would implement new requirements that would reduce fraud and abuse in the practical training programs. The proposed provisions include increased oversight of the schools and students participating in the program to ensure compliance with requirements of the program."
  • Spring 2018 agenda. Target date 10/00/2018. RIN 1653-AA76. Abstract: "ICE will propose this rule to improve protections of U.S. workers who may be negatively impacted by employment of nonimmigrant students on F and M visas. The rule is a comprehensive reform of practical training options intended to reduce fraud and abuse."
  • Fall 2018 agenda. Moved to long-term actions. RIN 1653-AA76. Abstract: "ICE will propose this rule to improve protections of U.S. workers who may be negatively impacted by employment of nonimmigrant students on F and M visas. The rule is a comprehensive reform of practical training options intended to reduce fraud and abuse."
  • Spring 2019 agenda. Continued in long-term actions. RIN 1653-AA76. Abstract: "ICE will propose this rule to revise the practical training options available to nonimmigrant students on F and M visas."
  • Fall 2019 agenda. Moved back into active items. Target date 08/00/2020. RIN 1653-AA76. Abstract: "ICE will amend existing regulations and revise the practical training options available to nonimmigrant students on F and M visas."

Remember:

  • This is not a final rule, or even a proposed rule yet. Its appearance on the DHS regulatory agenda as something at the "proposed rule stage" means that DHS is working on a proposed rule, which will eventually have to be published in the Federal Register for public notice and comment.
  • See NAFSA's page Basics of Rulemaking Under the APA for background on the rulemaking process.

NAFSA and other observers see this initiative as linked to two policy pronouncements by the Trump administration:

Both focus on fraud reduction and U.S. worker protections, but leave it to the responsible agencies to formulate the specifics. Those specifics have not yet been released to the public in the case of "practical training reform." The language in the Regulatory Agenda is broadly worded as focused on "practical training," however, and could therefore encompass F-1 OPT, STEM OPT and CPT, as well as M-1 practical training. NAFSA will update this page as information becomes available.