Just a few weeks after Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates’ testimony to the House of Representatives, the US government has extended the time foreign graduates can stay and work after graduation from 12 to 29 months. This means that a graduating student now gets a longer stay in the US without a worker visa, typically an H1-B. <b1>
Gates had said the “US faced a critical shortfall of skilled scientists and engineers”, and argued that immigration rules should be “revamped” so US companies can attract and retain top scientific talent.
In a press release, The US Department of Homeland Security said it had issued an interim final rule extending the period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) from 12 to 29 months for qualified F-1 non-immigrant students. The extension will be available to students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics employed by businesses enrolled in the E-Verify program.
“This rule will enable businesses to attract and retain highly skilled foreign workers, giving US companies a competitive advantage in the world economy,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
The decision also extends the period of stay and work authorization for all F-1 students with pending H-1B petitions, and allows students to apply for OPT within 60 days of graduation.
The yearly cap on H-1B visas is 65,000. An additional 20,000 visas are available for graduate students at US universities.
Companies like Microsoft have been lobbying the US Congress to raise the visa cap, saying that there was a shortage of skilled workers in the technology field.
There are over 80,000 Indian students enrolled in US universities. India is also the leading place of origin for international students in the US followed by China and Korea. There are over half a million international students studying in the US. These numbers have been rising in the last few years.