Visa Crunch

Tensed H-1B holders and Indian students heave a sigh of relief as Biden Administration provides aid

In recent developments under the Biden Administration, a court challenge to OPT and STEM OPT has failed. H-1B holders and Indian students waited with bated breaths as the challenge to OPT and STEM OPT made rounds in the federal courts.

While the government and National Association of Manufacturers stood by these programs, the anti-OPT sentiment was majorly fueled and promulgated by local employee organizations. Local organizations believe that these employment programs breach the ambit of government and interfere with the free market. Eventually, the court found the government’s reasoning to be sound, and hence, ruled in favor of them.

The OPT and STEM OPT have proven to be crucial for international students to gain work experience. The OPT (Optional Training Program) program provides students who finish their degrees with one year of job authorization. The law mandates students to work in their field – paid or unpaid – for no less than 20 hours per week. Full-time work is allowed, but not necessary. Similarly, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Graduates can extend their OPT for another two years, giving them a total of three years to work in the USA. The laws for the extension are tougher and much more similar to H-1B visas. Students can apply for the H-1B lottery for both forms of OPT status.

In another landmark judgement, the Department of Labor (DOL) has taken a decision to postpone the implementation of the wage hike regulation to May 14, 2021. The postponement means that the implementation will go past the H-1B lottery times this year. DOL is inviting comments from the public and stakeholders. They may entirely rescind the regulation if they find it to be factually or legally untenable after consideration.

Indian students and immigrants can certainly see rays of hope with the policy-making of the new Administration. The Indian diaspora is overjoyed with these pro-immigrant steps that Biden has taken, and would be looking to more fruitful relations with the States ahead.

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