An Indian diaspora organisation requested the Biden Administration alter the Optional Practical Training (OPT) system for international students on Friday, asserting that there is a significant disparity between graduating students and the number of H1B visas that are available.
In a letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS) complained that due to the gap, Indian students were losing out on the chance to contribute to the US economy.
The FIIDS has proposed a number of changes, including increasing the STEM OPT period for eligible students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields from 24 months to 48 months, increasing the time frame for applying for OPT after graduation from 60 days to 180 days, and giving STEM degree holders six times the likelihood of being chosen in the H1B visa lottery as opposed to non-STEM degree holders.
By doing this, we sustain the economic benefits that these students bring to our country while also retaining the talent that drives our innovation. The letter was written by Khanderao Kand, the director of policy and strategy at FIIDS.
Retaining highly competent STEM personnel within our borders is not just an issue of national security but also an economic imperative given the changing nature of global technology and the growing difficulties posed by artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, Kand wrote in the letter. A talent gap in developing technologies has been cited by the National Security Agency (NSA) as a national security threat. To gain a competitive edge in these fields, it is essential to retain STEM experts who received their education in the US. We can retain the expertise that is essential for keeping our technical edge and safeguarding national security by extending the OPT period, adding more H1B visa allocations, and raising lottery odds,” he continued.
According to Kand, who noted that this programme has a substantial economic impact, overseas students significantly boost the US economy by paying close to USD 10 billion in tuition and other costs to the country’s colleges. They also improve the academic climate in the US and promote intercultural understanding.
These gifted people will find it more and harder to pursue their dreams of furthering their studies and careers in the United States without the proposed rule modifications. According to Kand, this uncertainty may prompt students to look into educational options in other nations like Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and others, which would eventually have a negative influence on US colleges and our economy. He noted that the suggested OPT modifications are necessary not only to keep highly qualified STEM graduates in the United States but also to maintain the country’s leadership in cutting-edge fields like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.