SHRM Believes in a reliable, modernized employment-based immigration system that allows employers to hire the best talent


Latest Developments: OPT

The President signed the anticipated work-visa executive order on June 22 restricting access to certain temporary employment-based visas. SHRM is encouraged the Optional Practical Training program was excluded from the Executive Order. This important milestone was made possible with the support of HR professionals at academic institutions who provided valuable feedback to SHRM about how the program plays a vital role for students, institutions of higher learning, and employers alike.

SHRM will continue to support OPT and the role it plays as a crucial workforce development tool.

Background:

The Optional Practical Training (OPT) program is a critical tool for employers that allows them to attract, and retain, highly-skilled talent from around the world to enter the U.S. workforce. The OPT plays a vital role in providing hands-on training for international students graduating from U.S. colleges and universities who have worked hard to obtain their higher education.

After international students graduate from a U.S. college or university, they can apply for at least one year of OPT. If the student is a graduate in a STEM field, they can pursue an additional 24 months of OPT. The ability to pursue practical training following graduation is attractive to international students seeking to study within the U.S.

Issue:

On April 22nd, 2020, the White House released the “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak.” Following the proclamation, the Administration is now considering restricting or rescinding the OPT program, which allows foreign students to temporarily work in the U.S.

Outlook:

These are challenging times for employers, as the U.S. experiences unprecedented unemployment levels resulting from COVID-19. International students contributed over $41 billion to the U.S. economy supporting 458,290 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year. Restrictions on high-skilled, non-immigrant entry could potentially devastate their ability to grow their business and drive innovation.

As the focus shifts towards safely reopening workplaces across the country, employers will need to access talent to help kick-start the economy.This often means filling critical positions within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

SHRM Position:

SHRM actively supports policies that allow employers to access top global talent.

SHRM advocates for a reliable modernized employment-based immigration system that allows employers to hire the best talent. Now more than ever, employers must find the talent they need to survive, thrive, and lead our domestic economic recovery. SHRM urges the Administration not scale back the OPT as the economy begins to recover from COVID-19.

SHRM is committed to ensuring that any decisions related to the Executive Order be made with full consideration of the critical needs of the work, the worker, and the workplace. On May 28th, SHRM President & CEO Johnny C. Taylor Jr. sent a letter to the Administration emphasizing the importance of the OPT for the world of work.