US proposes to expand work permits of foreign students

  • PTI, Washington
  • Updated: Jun 10, 2015 13:52 IST

Aiming to attract more students from abroad, including India, the Obama administration has proposed to provide six-year work permit to certain category of foreigners who come to study in the US.

The move, likely to benefit Indian students the most is being opposed by a top Republican lawmaker.

According to new regulations proposed by the Department of Homeland Security, foreign students in science, technology, engineering and maths collectively called STEM would be allowed to work in the US for six years -- three years after finishing an undergraduate program, and then if it is needed, another three years after a graduate programme.

Currently, foreign students are authorised to work for a 12-month period after graduation from a US degree programme.

Foreign students graduating from Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) degree programmes are granted an additional 17 months of employment.

The new proposals have been submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to which the students in non-STEM category would get work permit for three years if they had an earlier STEM degree.

Given that students from India are mainly in STEM courses, the proposal if implemented would highly benefit Indian students.

However, the proposal has met its first tough hurdle from Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee.

In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Grassley said the proposed new regulations, while still being internally discussed, are irresponsible and dangerous considering the Government Accountability Office report issued in March 2014 finding that the program was full of inefficiencies, susceptible to fraud, and that the Department was not adequately overseeing it.

"Thus, under the proposed new regulation, a foreign student could work in the United States post-graduation on a student visa for a total of up to six years, completely outside of the non immigrant employment-based visa programs, and their associated worker protections, established by Congress," Grassley said.

A student who graduates from a STEM bachelor's degree program could work for up to three years after graduation in student status, then go on to get a master's degree and work for three more years after that, he said.

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