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OPT Expansion for F-1 Visa Foreign Students Working in US

On of the benefits of coming to study at a US higher education university under the F1 visa for undergraduate, graduate or pHD level degrees is the OPT (Occupational Training Program). This OPT program is often one of the major ways that foreign students eventually get full sponsorship via a visa like the H1B visa as it allows them to seek employment without the employer needing to sponsor them or pay additional costs. Thus they get to trial the foreign worker before committing to sponsoring that person under the H-1B visa.

Because of the limit of 85,000 H-1B visas issued each year and in 2012 was exhausted on June 11, 2012, the OPT program becomes invaluable source of talent for many institutions seeking talent particularly in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) where US students enroll in low numbers and don’t meet employment demand.

The F-1 Visa OPT allows a total of 12 months towards practical training, on being certified by the advisor of the usefulness of the work towards goals of the degree, which can be distributed between Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and OPT. CPT is just working while still study as opposed to following graduation. The permission is granted via the International Students Office (ISO) or similar body of the academic institution and like post graduation OPT must be in line with the field of study undertaken.

From the foreign student’s vantage point, they also get to trial an employer as well as the overall US work lifestyle out. So it also helps them decide firstly if their current employer is a great fit or indeed if that is not the case, then allows them to have some US work experience on their resume. That experience combined with time to network within the US work and professional group scene is invaluable to finding other work opportunities that may suit you better.

17 Month OPT Extension

On April 8, 2008, an interim order came from the Department of Homeland Security allowing certain students to apply for up to a 17 month extension of their OPT period bringing up to a maximum of 29 months being allowed to work under this status. This temporary interim ruling was designed to provide a permanent solution to what is known as the H-1B visa “cap-gap”. This is basically when a foreign’s student’s F1 visa status and EAD period has expired during a US Immigration fiscal year (Oct 1 – Sep 30) but prior to them being eligible work under an approved H1B visa which only starts on October 1st. In the past other interim solutions tried to address this issue but only related to someone remaining in the country but not for their work authorization.

The foreign students that are eligible for this are those that have graduated  in areas designated as important to the US economy with lots of open position but a constant shortfall among US citizen graduates. This includes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, (STEM). The eligible degree fields of study must be within the following;

o Computer Science Applications
o Biological and Biomedical Sciences
o Actuarial Science
o Mathematics and Statistics
o Engineering
o Military Technologies
o Engineering Technologies
o Physical Sciences
o Science Technologies
o Medical Scientist

Computerworld recently released the table below showing the US universities that have been approved for the greatest number of OPT extensions under this expansion of the program. There are over 35,000 extensions that have been approved since 2008 and only 613 denials with a further 5,000 current applications being processed this Summer. So all in all this program has been extremely valuable for US employers seeking much needed talent.

School  APPROVED
Stratford University 1,345
University of Bridgeport 1,076
New Jersey Institute of Technology 650
Illinois Institute of Technology 643
University of Southern California 591
San Jose State University 565
Northwestern Polytechnic University 546
Polytechnic Institute of New York University 484
The University of Texas at Arlington 471
Silicon Valley University 449
Stevens Institute of Technology 440
Texas A&M University-Kingsville 402

Now President Obama’s Administration has quietly instructed a further expansion of this program that has brought the ire of consistent anti foreign immigrant Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. The White House has included broad multi-disciplinary category like Information Systems as well as non tech fields like Archaeology, Behavioral Sciences, Urban Forestry and Sustainability. With the increased demand back for the H-1B visa this year, this helps ease the load with an effective 2.5 year buffer for these foreign students to be able to transferred successfully from the F-1 visa to the H-1B visa. This gives a total of about 400 fields that are now eligible under this program.

While this is a positive interim step, let us hope the whole visa and foreign worker legal immigration system is overhauled so it is more logical, efficient and fairer for all so it ultimately benefits the whole US economy at large.

CJ

(USCIS F1 OPT Q&A)

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US Immigration & Visa Trends 2012

We have from time to time given you insight into wider immigration trends, job trends, location migration trends and other economic and business trends that you may find insightful as it pertains to both US Immigration and your general search to live in the US, work in the US, study in the US, stay permanently in the US and/or get a US visa.

Today just wanted to share a couple of trends regarding Internet Searches that may give you an idea as to a possibly uptick in US Immigration activity for the first time since the Economy and Markets around the world and particularly the US hit rock bottom in early 2009. We have already talked about in our H-1B Visa Quota Updates that there is a significant increase in demand from US employers for foreign talent to a rate we have not seen since 2008.

H1B Visa

Let’s look at the H-1B Visa first and “H1B” searches on Google in the US from Jan 2007 through June 2012 to give us a long term perspective as to how this has played out. You can see since this year’s H-1B visa season opened in April 2012 right towards the end of the chart, there has been an uptick in Internet search activity to a level not seen since 2009.

Now given it is likely this quota is going to be exhausted by June 2012, it may downturn after that until next year but this is the first year since that time where the more usual dramatic spike in H-1B internet search activity has occurred. This could indicate along with the faster filling quota we may be returning toward past times and possibly things like the H-1B visa lottery again, which is not a good thing and really calls for more action on behalf of Congress to help the US economy as a whole with smarter Immigration policies.

The reason why we look at “H1B” searches in the US only is b/c most foreigners that are hired are already US based and of course their employers certainly are.

E3 Visa

The E3 Visa for Australian Nationals to work in the US b/c of its different features to the H-1B visa such as the ability to apply at any time of the year and in practice unlimited nature of the quota is not prone to the same seasonal spikes as the H-1B visa chart. Below is a chart for “E3 Visa” searches in Australia only b/c while again jobs are largely found by Australians in the US, the original intent comes from within Australia due to the relatively low number of Australians who are in the US doing things like studying at US Colleges and universities.

In general you can see that the search volume has followed a similar general trend to the “H1B” searches in US with being higher closer to 2007, declining and then being placid for next period with possibly a slight rise more recently. The interesting this during this economic downturn period, the Australian economy never went into recession with unemployment rates around the 5% level whereas US unemployment levels peaked at 10% level and are now around 8&.

Green Card

The elusive Green Card is the dream for many foreigners wanting to come to the US being the gateway to unrestricted work and study, access to US benefits, being able to live without visa needs and ultimately a path to US citizenship. The below shows “Green Card” searches worldwide for the last 5 years and we have made it worldwide b/c we know the interest is certainly global especially with things like the Green Card Lottery.

The Green Card Lottery actually provides an interesting seasonal component to the Search trends as the lottery itself is run every October/November with results being announced largely in May/June. So during those periods there is potential for spike and that can be seen particularly during the lottery opening phase in October each year but also with mini spikes around May. In the recent 3 years or so, people have been able to check their results online so that may have increase the search volume in May/June.

Overall you can see while there has been a little drop following 2007, unlike the H1B visa and E3 visa searches, the “Green Card” searches have maintained a similar level throughout these 5 years showing an ongoing sustained demand from foreigners around the globe with the desire to move permanently to the US.

F1 Visa

The F-1 visa is possibly the most common route to an H-1B visa for foreigners with them coming to study for Bachelors, Masters or PhD programs at US Colleges and then going to work at US companies often via the F1 OPT program. Now the interesting that has happened in the higher education sector at large with so many people being laid off in recent years along with prospects looking bleak for recent high school and undergraduate level people, is that people have opted for more education.

The below looks at “F1 Visa” searches globally and if we look at the trend of the F1 visa through this same 5 year period, it bares more of a similarity to the Green Card searches chart rather than H1B or E3 visa charts with it being sustained through this time. It tends to peak around Around April/May which is not surprising and that is the general deadline for many college submissions for the follow academic year beginning in September for most students

J1 Visa

The J-1 visa like the F-1 visa is a common route to working more permanently in the US with things like the H-1B or E-3 Visa or indeed studying on the F-1 visa itself. As the J-1 visa covers so many different programs including au-pairs, college counsellors, high school exchange programs, college work and travel programs, internships, cultural exchanges, etc. there are a lot of possibly contrary factors effecting how often it may be searched. The below looks at the “J1 visa” searches globally on Google.

Interestingly this chart follows a more similar trend to the H-1B and E-3 work type visa which suggests that the J-1 visa search volume is more influenced by people looking it as a means to work in the US rather than the exchange type programs it covers as well. This makes sense as many of the US sponsor organizations who bring in foreigners under the J-1 visa have reported smaller numbers in recent years.

We hope that this has provided a new insight for you all into the world of US immigration and maybe help your own quest to live in the US. Please leave us comments as would love to continue the discussion and hear all your stories on US Immigration.

Cj

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