Obama expands OPT visa program for foreign students

Changes add new fields of study to program that that serves some 40,000 university students

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

The problem with OPT may have been illustrated in a federal court complaint this month that alleged that a New Jersey IT services provider fired an employee who expressed reservations about the company's policy of only hiring OPT students.

The company quickly settled with the government.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) this week called for an investigation of the OPT program, citing in part the Obama administration's move.

John Miano, founder of the Programmers Guild, which challenged the government in court over the 2008 extension, was critical of the government's decision not to seek comment prior to adding the new rules this year.

Since the government got a court opinion that no one has standing to challenge the Bush administration's OPT extension, said Miano, it "has dispensed with the entire notice and comment procedure."

The list of schools that house the most students seeking to work in the U.S. under the OPT program is little changed from the last time Computerworld published a list in October 2010.

Costa said it is "obvious to any reasonable person that the schools producing most of the OPT students are not prestigious research universities, which means that many of the OPT students across the country are not in fact the 'best and brightest.'"

While top students can come from lesser-known schools, "those will be the exception to the rule," said Costa.

Costa said the government should include some performance metrics in the OPT program, such as students' grades and even a university's ranking.

"With youth unemployment being as high as it is, the Obama administration should be focusing on attracting the smartest immigrants that will add value and complement the workforce," said Costa.

"Adding workers with ordinary skills from vocational schools that few people have ever heard of -- just because they hold STEM degrees -- does nothing to further that goal," he added.

Sharon Machlis contributed to this story.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon