International students choose to study in the U.S. for many different reasons, and many choose to stay and work after they graduate from U.S. colleges and universities. The Pew Research Center analyzed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data and found that more and more high-skilled foreign graudates find jobs in the United States under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. The OPT program provides an important opportunity for foreign graduates to work in the U.S. for up to 12 months or 36 months, depending on their field. Many students choose to take advantage of the OPT programs to utilize the skills they learned.
The Pew Research Center found that the federal government approved nearly 700,000 OPT applications between 2008 and 2014. Below are the interesting findings:
The annual number of OPT approvals rose from 28,497 in 2008 to 136,617 in 2014.
Many of those working in the U.S. under the OPT program go on to apply for H-1B visas to stay longer in the U.S.
Those with STEM majors had a higher employment rate (73%) than non-STEM majors (57%).
Foreign students from India and China accounted for more than half (57%) of all those who were approved for OPT.
In October 2016, the Department of Homeland Security launched a new Study in the States page. Prospective and current international students on F and M visas can use this page to learn about the process and rules for studying in the United States. The website explains a lot of legal and complicated terms, such as STEM OPT Extensions, designated school officials (DSOs), Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and etc.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) also rolled out a new Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student,” in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The new SEVP implement a 10-day turnaround on all DSO update requests.