President Donald Trump is reportedly considering suspension of a program that business schools increasingly have turned to as a lifeline amid declining international student enrollment and plummeting applications overall. Trump's acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said last month that the Optional Practical Training program — by which hundreds of thousands of foreign workers are allowed to stay in the U.S. longer without needing a hard-to-get H-1B visa — is now an administration target.
Half a million people are in the U.S. on H-1B visas, which are limited to 85,000 annually; the OPT program, as of last year, had an enrollment of about 223,000. In the next few weeks the Trump administration is expected to accede to a request by Republican senators to halt the issuance of new H-1B visas and suspend all non-immigrant work permits for at least a year, or until employment levels rebound, according to reports. Several Republican Senators wrote a letter to Trump last week, urging a 60-day or longer suspension of H-1B and OPT.
The threat to OPT comes as schools have established or expanded STEM programs to lure more international students with the promise of lengthier post-graduation work stays in the United States.
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