The number of international students staying in the U.S. to work through the optional practical training program increased in 2017 but at a lower rate than in recent years, according to a new analysis of government data from the Pew Research Center. The number of international students participating in OPT — which allows international students to stay in the U.S. to work for one to three years after they graduate while staying on their student visas — increased by 8 percent in 2017, compared to a 34 percent growth rate the year before.
The Trump administration plans to issue a new proposed rule this fall overhauling practical training programs for student visa holders in order to “improve protections of U.S. workers” and “to reduce fraud and abuse,” according to a notice of the planned rule published in this spring’s regulatory agenda. A separate Pew analysis published in May found rapid growth in use of the OPT program since 2008, particularly among international students studying in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The growth followed a 2008 rule promulgated by the George W. Bush administration extending the period for which international STEM graduates could work from 12 months to 29 months. The Obama administration subsequently issued a rule extending that period by an additional seven months, for a total of three years.