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OPT work permit set to end?

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OPT work permit set to end?

It’s that time of the year again, when some random mainstream media news article, an indiscriminate statement or suggestion by an American politician sets rumour mills into overdrive. Gullible people begin hyperventilating about how the dream of an American education (read an American job) is set to be shattered for everyone, because as per them, Donald Trump is planning to purge the American mainland of all foreign students. The latest bit in this regard is a recent news article which states that Republican Congressman from Arizona, Paul Gosar, seeks to introduce a bill to kill the OPT work permit for foreign students. The article attempts to present the step-by-step implications of the same as follows:

First, how does a bill become a law? Through the following route:

  1. Laws begin as ideas. Well, Mr. Gosar definitely has an idea. But it is simply a reaction to a contradictory idea. Not just an idea, to know more read ahead.

2. Next, the representative sponsors a bill. Now did we state (1) That this idea is a reaction to something contradictory? Yes, it is in reaction to a bill introduced by Democrat Congresswoman, Zoe Lofgren, which seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants, to increase the per-country numerical limitation for family-sponsored immigrants, and for other purposes.

3. The bill is then assigned to a committee for study. If released by the committee, the bill is put on a calendar to be voted on, debated or amended in the House of Representatives. If the bill passes by simple majority (218 of 435), the bill moves to the Senate. In the 2018 mid-term polls in the US, Mr. Gosar’s Republican party lost the House to the Democrats, and today, the Democrats have 235 members in the House as against 199 Republican members. Thus, in the House of Representatives, the Democrats can block any legislation introduced by a Republican member (in this case, they naturally can be expected to, considering one of their own party members has introduced an antithetical bill in the House.)

4. In the highly unlikely scenario, where Mr. Gosar’s bill introduced at a later date than that of Ms. Lofgren, manages to generate traction among 9% Democrats over the one introduced by one of their own members, while earning support of all the 199 Republican representatives in the House, it is then that it would move to the Senate, where it would be released, debated and voted on. In the Senate, where a simple majority (51 of 100) would pass the bill, the Republicans have a slight advantage (53-47).

5. Finally, a conference committee made of House and Senate members works out any differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

6. The resulting Bill returns to the House and Senate for final approval.

7. The Government Printing Office prints the revised bill in a process called enrolling. The President has 10 days to sign or veto the enrolled bill.

It is because a bill has to traverse this long process that incorporates checks and balances at every step that only 4% of bills become laws. It is easy to see that in the event that Mr. Gosar even contemplates introducing the bill in the House, it would be disdainfully shot down. But let’s assume that the Bill manages to reach to the President’s desk for final approval. What would Mr. Donald Trump do then? Perhaps his tweet might be indicative:

While across the world, and especially in India, concerns have always been raised over what Donald Trump’s Presidentship would mean for OPT, here Mr. Trump is seen guaranteeing a swifter transition from H1B to US Citizenship! The only quality one needs to possess is being ‘talented and highly skilled’. Clearly then, we can expect Mr. Gosar’s bill to have a very high chance of rejection at every stage before it could become a law.

Contrary to what is expressed in most mainstream media reports, things haven’t been better for MS students since the reversal of the H1B lottery system. The tuition fee paid by Indian students contributes heavily to the research and development of the US, which in turn helps them maintain their economic stability. Majorly, the reversal of the lottery system has made the H1B process significantly more merit based. Also, companies such as Infosys and TCS, would recruit engineers from India, and send them ‘on-site’ on H1B visa to work at client locations in the US at a salary higher than what they would earn in India, but significantly lower than what they would have had to pay to an American national. Many smart Indian engineers would also take the opportunity to fly to the US on the H1B and then switch jobs in the US. It is this outsourcing tap that has been turned off. With, H1B Visa allotment numbers remaining the same, a much higher proportion of it ,would now go to deserving Master’s degree holders.

A study conducted by the National Foundation of American Policy has concluded that there is no evidence that international students participating in the OPT reduce job opportunities for US workers. In fact, the study has concluded that the OPT acts as a ‘safety valve’ for breaching the demand-supply gap for skilled talent in tight labour markets and also propel economic growth. Thus, the OPT provision can be expected to be under absolutely no threat at all, because the very basis on which it could be sought to be targeted for abolishment has been invalidated.

So, what do we make out of the furore that Mr. Paul Gosar’s statement about his intention to table the bill to eliminate the OPT? To use the old adage – Much Ado about Nothing!

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