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Education United States

H-1B Visa Alternative 'OPT' Grew 400 Percent In Eight Years, Report Finds 185

theodp writes: Almost 1.5 million foreign students have been allowed to stay and work in the U.S. after graduation as part of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which is now larger than the controversial H-1B program (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). According to new Pew Research analysis of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the number of students authorized to work under OPT has grown 400% since the federal government in 2008 increased the amount of time graduates with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees could remain in the United States and work. More than half of those working under OPT from 2004 to 2016 were in STEM fields, Pew found, and as a result, were eligible for the so-called STEM extension.

The OPT program added a 17-month STEM extension in 2008, shortly after Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates suggested it in testimony to Congress after complaining that the cap for the H-1B program had caused a serious disruption in the flow of talented STEM graduates to U.S. companies. In 2016, another 12-month extension was added after a Federal judge threatened to torpedo the STEM extension program, saying it "appears to have been adopted directly from the unanimous suggestions by Microsoft and similar industry groups." In its Top Ten Tech Issues for 2018, Microsoft expressed "concern that in 2018 the White House will announce a rollback of the extended period of Optional Practical Training for STEM graduates." Pew also took note of allegations that "visa mills" have sprung up in response to demand driven by the OPT program.

H-1B Visa Alternative 'OPT' Grew 400 Percent In Eight Years, Report Finds

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  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @08:22PM (#56602084)
    that I see tech almost completely dominated by people here on work visas, to the point where companies have completely shut down their training departments because they don't have to train anymore. There's not enough H1-Bs to fill that many positions. The program is big and corrupt but not that big and corrupt.

    Thing is, I don't see anything changing. Folks voted for Trump because he said he'd stop all this crap, and now he supports TPP, DACA, and literally told his supporters he wanted workers to come in and do your jobs [theindychannel.com]. Meanwhile Bernie Sanders, the one politician who could have put the brakes on this crap, couldn't even get enough support to overcome a little back stabbing from his party (which let's remember Trump easily did).

    What we need is folks to stop giving a crap about pointless shit (Guns, Abortion, Gay Marriage, you know, wedge issues) and pay attention to the economy. But good luck with that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geoskd ( 321194 )

      What we need is folks to stop giving a crap about pointless shit (Guns, Abortion, Gay Marriage, you know, wedge issues) and pay attention to the economy. But good luck with that.

      While I do agree with most of your post, I strongly disagree that the second amendment is "pointless shit".

      I don't own any guns (unless you count paintball, and even then, none that work), but I will never vote for any politician that interferes with the right to own a gun. I don't even much care for gun regulation. I consider it our right (and responsibility unless you have a good reason otherwise, like an autistic child) to own a gun and be prepared to use it in defense of our Constitution (notice I didn

      • That's the only regulation you support? So, a known gang member, after getting out of prison for murder, should have zero problem going and buying 100+ fully automatic weapons? You said "one gun regulation", so that means that anything below self-propelled rounds is good to go. Now, from the viewpoint of "protection against tyranny", that might be a good idea. I'm sure a gang member could find three other members to sign for him. Or someone who is mentally ill, hears voices, thinks many people are "out to k
      • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:27AM (#56602690)
        because that was a big part of why the founding fathers wanted everybody armed. They wanted the militias to handle defense. Even back then it was understood that untrained citizens couldn't beat trained soldiers. We didn't really 'win' the revolutionary war so much as Britain gave up to go focus on the French (who wanted us split from the Brits to weaken their enemy).

        As it stands you're weapons are pointless against the US Military. Even if we removed _all_ restrictions and let you have rocket launchers, grenades and fully automatic rifles you'd run out of supplies and your lack of military discipline, training and supply lines means you'd be gunned down. A few like you might live up in the wood and occasionally come done and blow up a school bus like they do in Afghanistan. But you'd never kill anyone who really mattered.

        The above sounds harsh because, well, it's the truth, and the truth is bloody fucking _harsh_. If you want to prevent oppression though the good news is it's not hard. Fight bigotry in all forms. It's the #1 tool of oppressors to divide the working class. Make sure _everyone_ is taken care of. Food, Shelter, Healthcare and education. The #2 tool of oppressors is scarcity. It keeps us at each other's throats.

        But please, abandon this notion of fighting back with violence. It doesn't work. Best case you get to change out the oppressors. Worst case you become a terrorist.
        • by Reverend Green ( 4973045 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @02:11AM (#56602776)

          You should definitely tell those armed civilians in Afghanistan - who have fought the US military to a standstill for a decade - that they have absolutely no chance against the US military.

          • You should definitely tell those armed civilians in Afghanistan - who have fought the US military to a standstill for a decade - that they have absolutely no chance against the US military.

            They don't. But they for the past decade they have been playing against what only can be defined as a "trickle oppression". The USA hasn't demonstrated it's military might since the Vietnam war and even that effort paled in comparison to WW2.

            Make no mistake, those civilians in Afghanistan have zero chance against the US military. However the US military hasn't really put it's heart into it either.

            • by lgw ( 121541 )

              . The USA hasn't demonstrated it's military might since the Vietnam war and even that effort paled in comparison to WW2.

              You mean, the US has not demonstrated some alleged, potential might that it once had a lifetime ago. What makes you think that can change?

              At the small scale, the US in Iraq was objectively the deadliest fighting force ever seen. Clearing houses, where the defender should have a massive advantage, casualties went 10:1 the other way. When it comes to squad-level action, there are none better.

              But that's not the might of a nation. Our Navy can't even steer around civilian ships safely, and it's clear that's

              • potential might

                If you think it is only potential then you're not at all paying attention.

                What makes you think that can change?

                Willpower. The USA is only showing the might that it wants to all the while showing restraint knowing full well that international opinion is actually still a valuable currency.

                Our Navy can't even steer around civilian ships safely

                Taking a couple of isolated incidents shows nothing about might. In fact a lack of display of might breeds exactly the kind of complacency that allows a few ships to crash into each other. And in the end, as long as the missles fly, no one will care if a ship o

                • errr.. Lundgren wtf spell chequer!

                • by lgw ( 121541 )

                  Taking a couple of isolated incidents shows nothing about might.

                  They aren't a couple of isolated incidents - they are a pattern across the navy. Read the incident reports and court martial summaries (what's public) and it's clear, from patrol boats that surrender because the ship is in too poor shape to fight, to DDGs where a dozen officers each should have sounded an alarm, and none of the did. 20 hour shifts, no training on navigation basics, faulty radar (or mis-configured). These are cultural (and budget) issues.

                  Also, you should look at the two civil wars we've ha

          • We completely dominate Afghanistan. We got _everything_ we wanted. They didn't "fight us to a stand still". Read my post again. Every now and then they blow up somebody who doesn't matter. Meanwhile we get the oil pipelines and endless war we want that keeps billions of your tax dollars and mine flowing into the hands of the Military Industrial complex instead of roads, schools and health care.

            They're not winning by any measure. They playing right into our hands. Not that they can do a damn thing about
          • by mjwx ( 966435 )

            You should definitely tell those armed civilians in Afghanistan - who have fought the US military to a standstill for a decade - that they have absolutely no chance against the US military.

            You should take that attitude to Ireland... Who for 300 years fought for independence from England... only to be granted it by a vote.

            Or to Tibet. Or South Ossetia. See how that's working out for them.

            Afghanistan and Iraq were successful because the NATO nations refuse to commit to a total war (and there are good reasons for that). In fact Afghanistan's resistance only became successful because GWB moved to Iraq and forgot about Afghanistan.

        • because that was a big part of why the founding fathers wanted everybody armed.

          This is way off topic but I keep seeing people spouting off about gun ownership opinions of the founding fathers. The founding fathers agreed on very little. Yes, many of them did fear having a standing army & believed in a "well-regulated militia". Everyone armed? Hardly. Firearms were expensive. Regular folks did not own them. There was something like 14% gun ownership (googled it) & half of those didn't work. There were not enough firearms to arm the standing militias. They had severe shortages & the state actually regulated firearms. Can you imagine.. they confiscated firearms from folks that couldn't use them.

          Our founding fathers likely did not conceptualize "everybody armed".

        • by mjwx ( 966435 )

          because that was a big part of why the founding fathers wanted everybody armed. They wanted the militias to handle defense. Even back then it was understood that untrained citizens couldn't beat trained soldiers. We didn't really 'win' the revolutionary war so much as Britain gave up to go focus on the French (who wanted us split from the Brits to weaken their enemy).

          Back then, there wasn't anything like a professional army. Most armies were raised from the peasantry, there were professional soldiers who were mostly mercenaries. Only the officer class was somewhat professional and in Britain, this was more true for the Navy than the Army because the Navy still had a job in peace time.

          The main problem the British had was that according to the doctrine of the time, armies in the colonies were raised from the local population.

          Standing (professional) armies for entire

      • This will help to ensure that any gun nut has to have at least three people who think they are responsible enough to have a gun.

        Are you suggesting that a gun nut can't find 3 other gun nuts in the city? This is the single most pointless restriction I have ever heard of. Most {insert any topic here} nut put themselves in an echo chamber of like minded nuts, surrounded by nuts of the same kind. If all you need to perpetuate nuttiness is for a nut to know a few other nuts then all you have made is pointless paperwork.

    • Bernie was so weak he let Hillary rip him off and then didn't even stick it to her on it.

      The system is big and corrupt... whomever you put out there to fix it is going to have balls of fucking steel.

      Like or dislike Trump, he at least has that quality.

      Bernie doesn't. He got completely cheated by Hillary and didn't do anything about it. He should have ripped her head off for that. But instead he meekly accepted it.

      You like Bernie's policies? Fine. But get someone that can actually seal the deal. Bernie is old

    • by magzteel ( 5013587 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @01:33AM (#56602708)

      The HR people and hiring managers I've spoken to tell me the climate regarding hiring H1-B's has shifted dramatically. The are very concerned about the increased scrutiny from the government to justify the hires and as a result they are looking elsewhere.

      Even infosys is shifting work from visa holders to Americans. Apparently it is possible to find local talent when necessary.
      https://www.hrdive.com/news/in... [hrdive.com]

      • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

        The HR people and hiring managers I've spoken to tell me the climate regarding hiring H1-B's has shifted dramatically. The are very concerned about the increased scrutiny from the government to justify the hires and as a result they are looking elsewhere.

        Correct, now it's a better bargain to hire kids straight out of college.

        • The HR people and hiring managers I've spoken to tell me the climate regarding hiring H1-B's has shifted dramatically. The are very concerned about the increased scrutiny from the government to justify the hires and as a result they are looking elsewhere.

          Correct, now it's a better bargain to hire kids straight out of college.

          Check out this video where an immigration lawyer is whining about the increased requests for evidence and denials. She even acknowledges that lack of specialized skills is justification to deny a petition.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      • I confirm it. I recently nursed two FI had done1/OPT to H1B. And I have just hired an MS and a PhD under F1/OPT. Going to do H1B. Compared to all the previous ones this time the scrutiny is pretty tight.

        If they had been this strict all these years H1B program will not be bad. We hire only US Masters/PhDs. We follow both the letter and the spirit of the law. The additional scrutiny is welcome.

        IT was the Indian IT companies who used Indian diploma mills that made a mockery of the law and gamed the system,

    • couldn't even get enough support to overcome a little back stabbing from his party (which let's remember Trump easily did).

      It wasn't his party. He has always been an independent. It's not terribly surprising that switching allegience for 5 minutes to Democrat just so he could run as president with a party didn't convince the Democrat party members.

      • It wasn't his party. He has always been an independent. It's not terribly surprising that switching allegience for 5 minutes to Democrat just so he could run as president with a party didn't convince the Democrat party members.

        Uh, no. He DID convince the Democrat party members. The polls clearly showed that Democrats wanted to vote for Sanders. He failed to convince the Democrat party committee. They subverted the democratic process, ran a candidate the polls said could not beat Trump, and lost the election. They could not have thrown the election any more effectively if they tried.

        • Uh, no. He DID convince the Democrat party members.

          No he didn't.

          The polls clearly showed that Democrats wanted to vote for Sanders.

          Except they didn't vote for him in the primaries.

          They subverted the democratic process

          By usin the normal mechanisms rather than going off opinion pieces based on internet polls.

    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      that I see tech almost completely dominated by people here on work visas, to the point where companies have completely shut down their training departments because they don't have to train anymore. There's not enough H1-Bs to fill that many positions. The program is big and corrupt but not that big and corrupt.

      It's simple: Companies don't want to pay a fair wage. They want to maximize profits and cutting costs (wages) is a way to do that. Self employment is looking more attractive all the time.

    • The wedge issues keep the two party system alive.

      A little back stabbing for Bernie? When your party is "behind the scenes" completely against you, one cannot win.

      Regarding changes of support for things, Presidents always become centrists to some degree. The two party system enforces this.

      And the two parties have billions upon billions of dollars (unlimited at this point, Supreme Court fail), they will continue to win unopposed at the levels that really matter.

      Trump is an outlier for sure. But Hillary sho

  • by oldgraybeard ( 2939809 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @08:23PM (#56602088)
    force down wages of their technical workers. I love the whining that they can not find workers. Truth is they can not find workers willing to work under their terms and conditions for the amount of money they want to pay.
    I really struggle to believe there is a shortage of workers in STEM in the US at all. I really think this is all about forcing down wages.

    Just my 2 cents ;)
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      It winning for so many people. Everyone but the US tech worker is winning.
      It keeps unions down in the USA. Thats great for the brand and its wealth.
      Nations send their best to the USA so their own workforces don't have a few of their best every generation working for the US brands.
      That allows the US to stay super competitive in some strange way? By removing the best from other nations and getting them to work in USA?
      Lawyers help US brands place the international workers and ensure the US gov accepts t
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ayano ( 4882157 )
      On the other side, as someone hiring engineers. I'm not going to sugar coat that many of the 'all-american' graduates don't have as strong a grasp on mathematics as the foreign graduates. The interview questions show this glaringly, do you want to lower the bar to fill quotas?

      When I'm looking for team members I care about what they're able to do and we pay our American and H1B workers the same salary (just north of 100k). So payment is not the issue as you like to claim. In shortages employees have more
      • by nnull ( 1148259 )

        As someone that hires engineers as well, this is the same situation I run into. I do find a lot of American engineers absolutely sub-par. Many schools in the US have lowered the bar, because they're not any where near the caliber from the generation before them.

        But there are many companies that abuse H1B's to absurd levels, my neighbor is a prime example of this, so it does happen, and quite often. So much so, it has depressed my area that it makes it now impossible to hire people even remotely qualified be

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        It called, quite simply, compulsory regulated training programs. Simply laws that force companies over a certain size to spend money on training. Employing local students and paying them through college, not a request but a legal regulated demand.

        • by Ayano ( 4882157 )
          So my department is now supposed to teach, basic gray matrix and eigenvector reduction? Just wait till they reach the actual work! This is basic linear algebra, if applicants can't understand that even when duly noted in the work requirements, they have no business in my department nor should my department train them. We work on difficult telemetry problems and I'll be dammed if I'm force to train incompetents. My team does not need delinquents 'faking it till them make it'.

          This isn't about anti-american
        • "compulsory regulated training programs" your kidding? Right!

          There are individuals I know I can count on and work with, then there is the 9 to 4 crowd (yes it is supposed to be 8 to 5) with an hour off for lunch bunch.

          Just my 2 cents ;)
      • You offer lousy pay, and therefore can't find any skilled Americans. So you import a bunch of H1-B workers to avoid paying market rate for skilled locals.

        Sounds like you and your company ARE the problem.

        • by Ayano ( 4882157 )
          You make it seem as if there is a large pool of engineers that operate at such levels. Even in something as mundane as "business management", the best players will be fought over. Now In the business of intelligence and mathematical algorithms, it's not 'gutso' or 'drive' that we seek, it's ability and a large number of American engineers simply don't know, or care about 'boring mathematics'.

          You're promoting that companies "aren't paying enough". Maybe for IT work as that becomes the new 'mechanic' commo
          • The pay rates you quote are most unimpressive relative to the cost of buying property in major American cities. That's why you can't find skilled US citizen workers.

            Thank you again for using imported H1-B labor to put downward pressure on local wages. Without the diligent efforts of people like you, we might have a thriving middle class.

            • by Ayano ( 4882157 )
              You clearly don't know anything about compensation packages, 100k-200k is standard for senior SRE; 250k-500k for phd and masters level work on Algorithm development. That is without bonuses and stock options that can go to the low million per year. I was an engineer, and you need to either be a team lead or project lead to reach the upper tiers of that compensation, with stock benefits. It sounds like you're promoting 'same work, more pay'. Forget about mathematics, you just 'deserve' more.

              My mechanic ge
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      In that case the sensible thing to do is make sure migrant workers get paid more than local ones. Then they are available to companies that really need them, and wages are not forced down.

      As a migrant worker that's what I expect. Maybe the same wage as locals, but also up front cash for relocation.

      • by Reverend Green ( 4973045 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @03:17AM (#56602864)

        Here in Vietnam, foreign workers earn at least 3x as much as a local doing the same job. Many earn more than that.

        So as you can imagine, companies do NOT hire foreigners for any job that could be done by a local. If they don't have 10-15 years of serious experience in a profession, the only job open to a foreigner is language teacher.

        That is bad for inexperienced foreigners hoping to work in Vietnam. But it's very good for the local economy and local society. There is no anti-immigrant sentiment here, because there are few of us and we aren't taking anyone's jobs.

        I think we should adopt a similar policy in the United States. The law should require any imported foreign workers to be paid at least three times as much as their American counterparts. That single simple rule would be enough to end H-1B abuse overnight.

    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      force down wages of their technical workers. I love the whining that they can not find workers. Truth is they can not find workers willing to work under their terms and conditions for the amount of money they want to pay.

      BINGO!

  • H-1B visas are good as long as you work for the sponsoring employer;

    but, when the worker departs the sponsor, he has to find employment with another company qualified to use imported labor, seek a status change, marry a local princess, or depart the country.

    Optional Practical Training [wikipedia.org] applies initially as an extension to students with F-1 Visas, [wikipedia.org] although several extensions have been approved in recent years.

  • by hey! ( 33014 )

    So now we have an immigration program that is openly intended to move US jobs overseas.

    What we should have is a program which ends in the recipient receiving a green card.

  • by stikves ( 127823 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @09:18PM (#56602234) Homepage

    A few years ago, OPT was not strictly necessary, hence I used it for a few months. However now with much more people applying for H1-B, and having a significantly smaller chance to get one, people tend to stay on OPT for longer periods. They have been living here in US for long periods (school + work), maybe 7-8 or more. And I would believe most have already proved their benefit to this country.

    I had friends who were contributing members of our society who had to leave for other countries due to losing the H1-B lottery several years in a row. They tend to hang on to OPT as much as possible than have to leave, at least for another year.

    For this reason I would prefer merit based, or "auction" based H1-B system. If the company finds the candidate to contribute significant amounts, then they can also "bid" by giving higher salaries. This also answers the question about skilled labor being replaced with foreign unskilled ones. If you cannot pay in the top so much thousand (50K?) positions for a foreign employee, it means the company does not actually value their work so much.

    (I would also support separate quotas for engineers, and lower paying important jobs, like skilled teachers).

    • I would say auction is a good idea. Pay so much to hire a H1B. But once hired the person is portable, who can leave you for another employer. Pay the fees for the position, but can't treat the hires as indentured labor.
  • Getting the best and brightest from other countries is a good thing. It used to bother me a little, but after hiring two Indian engineers I would say I would rather keep that talent in the US.

    The only problem is that now to transition them to H1B, they need to earn $91k... without their PE. One is worth it for sure, the other has to convince me still...

    • Thanks for helping to drive down American wages.

      • Has nothing to do with “American wages,” and especially not in a downward direction. If they become eligible for the H1B, they would be at about 115% of normal wage for the position based on experience (and maybe 105-110% based on capability). But, the reason for hiring them is about getting talent, not just bodies. There is maybe 1% unemployment in my industry locally right now— likely much less.

  • Tell me again,please, how stupid, unfriendly, obnoxious, and otherwise unpleasant America is, and how badly degrading and oppressive and otherwise unfortunate the life here...

    • Tell me again,please, how stupid, unfriendly, obnoxious, and otherwise unpleasant America is, and how badly degrading and oppressive and otherwise unfortunate the life here...

      Hey bro, heads up: you appear to be replying to the voices in your head rather than anyone in the thread.

      • by mi ( 197448 )

        Hey bro

        What is it with your kind insisting on calling strangers "bro"? Is it a subtle insult you make — defiling the target's reputation by claiming his close acquaintanceship with the likes of your own? Or just a desperate and pitiable attempt to belong?

        you appear to be replying to the voices in your head

        I'm addressing the cowards like this one [slashdot.org], having heard their voices — snarky and outraged alike — numerous times before. Indeed, yours may very well have been among them, whether out of s

    • There's also the beatings of gay people, [huffingtonpost.com] rampant islamophobia, [theawl.com] and descendants of European invaders calling descendants of native american's "illegal immigrants." Yet here you are, with your wingnut persecution complex.

  • OPT was designed so the student earns on the job skills on US soil after graduation. It's more like an internship. Companies can benefit in the sense that if they like the student's work after a year, THEN they can try to get the student worker a H1B.

    I'm personally affected by this as i will be trying for it once i finish with my studies.

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