Potential OPT Suspension – June 2020

Is it true that President Trump is about to issue an executive order to suspend OPT?

We have heard several rumors recently that President Trump may suspend OPT, a program for foreign students to stay in the U.S. to get 1 or 2 years of occupational training after their education1.

This proclamation may come as early as June 15th that would temporarily prevent foreign nationals from entering the U.S. in H1B, L-1, H2B, or J-1 status. According to the unverified reports, this may only impact foreign nationals who are not currently in the United States, and some categories of foreign nationals (e.g., healthcare workers) would be exempt from the executive order.

Why the Suspension?

It is not clear what the restrictions may look like, various options are reportedly under consideration — but Trump administration officials said they are designed to help American graduates looking for entry-level work during the economic downturn. A coalition of College Republican chapters has also called on Trump to end the OPT program, saying that canceling work authorization for foreign nationals would “ease the economic suffering of American college students and recent graduates looking for meaningful employment in these trying times.” The administration is expected to frame the move as economic protection for Americans faced with overwhelming unemployment rates.

Currently any degree from any U.S. institution of higher education, ranging from Harvard and Stanford to any accredited University in the US, can be used to secure the subsidized OPT status2. In many cases the foreign workers have two-year (or 18-months) master’s degrees. Further, currently one can take a series of master’s degrees from the most obscure of institutions and remain in the OPT program for decades on end.

Who will be affected?

We are waiting for details, but the proposed changes allegedly include plans to suspend all OPT and STEM extensions for foreign students; entry for H1B visas, L-1 and J-1 visa holders (with exceptions for health care professionals)3. If you have a visa stamp for one of these categories and are outside the US it would be best to try and re-enter as soon as possible (Preferably within the next week as rumors are that the Executive Order is due to be released before the end of this month). This will be contested by Big Business and Big Education who have been highly supportive of the OPT program.

Information will be updated as it becomes available. Connect with an August Network agent for help applying for a STEM extension now and keep an eye out for updates. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us!