Foreign students currently studying in the US must be watching the news about the H1B visa program and pending changes with great interest. For some, it may be discouraging to anticipate a tightening of H1B visas given to foreign workers, but there is a silver lining for students.
Here are some reassuring points about the H1B visa program and foreign students:
- President Trump himself has come out and said that while he wants to restrict the issuance of H1B visas to foreigners replacing US workers, he has also said that one of his goals is to retain foreign students that graduate from US universities with acquired education, skills and expertise.
- A new bill introduced to Congress in January gives a similar status to foreign students in the US, and would give them priority for H1B visas over applicants currently residing in another country. Graduate students in particular (Master’s Degree or higher) would receive even greater priority.
- Trump has never spoken against the F-1 visa that is given to foreign students, which then allows the student to enter the US workforce via the OPT program, offering training and experience even before graduation. This educational visa is part of a bilateral treaty with some countries such as India, and unlikely to change.
- One of the concerns about the current H1B program is that outsourcing firms are hiring foreign workers temporarily to gain valuable knowledge and experience, and then importing that information back to the home country. By retaining foreign students in the US job market, would limit this practice and preserve the education gained for the benefit of US businesses.
- Several US universities are offering graduating students a chance to start a business through a mentorship program. In essence, the school will “employ” the student part-time while they develop their business plans and implement the needed steps for viability.
- Under the mentorship program, graduates can use university resources to develop their businesses, and have to start their business in the school’s locale. Because the university is a non-profit, the positions are ‘cap exempt’ and not subject to the annual lottery.
- In a related point, there has been no talk about limiting H1B visas for cap-exempt positions. All of the bills introduced and Trump policy proposals are focused on for profit companies that are subject to the annual lottery.
Encouraging Signs for Foreign Students
All of these points should be encouraging for foreign students looking forward to starting their career in the US job market. Obviously, even students, or those in cap exempt positions, are subject to the three year H1B visa time limit (six years with extensions). However, because they are in the US and beginning work they can begin the green card process right away with the help of their US sponsoring company.
There are additional pathways to working in the US through starting a company also, which some students may be able to pursue given their contacts and familiarity with the US culture. The goal of the Trump administration is to create more US jobs, and by retaining talented foreign students the economy is supported and more jobs can be created. For these reasons, foreign students should be looking at ways to enter the US workforce even before graduation, and should not be deterred by all of the rhetoric and political maneuvering sure to take place this year.
If you have questions about the OPT program, locating a US sponsor or H1B visa qualifications for specialty occupations, please contact us at any time.
- May 12th, 2017