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The OPT Program Is In Trump's Crosshairs; Schools Weigh Threat


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women walk into the visa application section of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing

U.S. universities are concerned about international students' access to visas.

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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