The extension of the OPT visa for STEM subjects students has made it easier for them to work after the completion of the degree, and reduced the demand for the H1-B.
VS has just graduated from the University of Southern California and like thousands of Indian students, is worried about his prospects in the battered US Job market. Adding to his worries is the diminishing quota of H -1B visas (the work visa for US).
The question everyone seems to be asking is, will Indian students not get work permits after completing their studies in the US? With this concern paramount in the minds of most students, what has gone unnoticed is the fact that now the US government permits students to work for 29 months after graduation on their student visa itself (previously students were allowed to work for 12 months after graduating). However, there’s a catch to this as well. The additional 17 month extension is valid for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related fields only. STEM fields are a broad category, including majors like computer science, electrical, biomedical, mechanical and architectural engineering, instrumentation technology, biochemistry, physics, chemistry, computational mathematics, and around 200 more majors (to see the complete list of STEM majors, visits). However, students studying business related disciplines, including the most sought after MBA degree, do not qualify for this 17 month extension.
AM a student from Mays Business School complaints, “I really don’t think it’s fair that only engineering students and other science students benefit from the 29 month OPT. I am completing my MBA, and I will only get a 12 month extension to work in the US”. Still, he isn’t completely cynical. Since many students will not be applying fro an H-1b visa, he will not have a problem in getting it. Students who are not in a technical vocation can also have the same problems as those that are. Still, we have less time to deal with them, and hence, a smaller chance at landing a job, than a student who is allowed an OPT Extension might have.
An MS in Communication Studies student from Boston University avers, “Personally, I thought it was rather unfair to give this preference to only a few fields. It sends out a message that the other majors are not important enough to merit such attention from employers”. We were hoping that it would be opened up to other majors as well, because the extension almost eliminates the need for an H1B for a while.
This year the number of people who have applied for the H-1B visa has reduced, as students are still working under the student visa. There’s a very good possibility that this trend is due to the STEM list work extension factor. Most non-business students do not need an H-1B visa for a long time, and hence there is less pressure on H-1B applications. Moreover, most Indian students prefer to work in the US for two to three years, and then head back home. Hence, the number of people applying for H-1B visas has reduced.
Separate provisions are made for students applying for H-1B visas depending on whether they are master’s students or general category workers. For students who have a master’s degree, there is a separate quota of 20,000 H-1B visas and 65,000 H-1B visas for general category workers. Since most Indian students who are applying for an H-1B visa after obtaining master’s degree, fall into the special 20,000 visas quota, increases their chance of actually obtaining the visa. AB has just completed his studies and now will work under the new OPT rules. He do not have to worry about the H-1B quota, as he will be allowed to work for around two and half years in the US. The challenge now is to find a job that suits his profile. AB a student who has just graduated from the University of Texas at Austin says.
Companies which accepted US bailout money from the government are not eligible to employ people with H-1B visas. However, if you are on the OPT extension, you may just be able to work with such companies unless they refuse to hire you knowing that you can’t work longer than your OPT duration. A student from NYU, who is now working as a Firmware Developer at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Pullman WA reveals, certain companies have extended offers to some but have refused to file their H1 visa. The reason is that they’re under the debt of the government, and are not allowed to do it. People are taking up jobs under the university at a low pay rate, due to fewer jobs.
Getting permission to work in the US is not as tough as it may seem. Students have the option of getting an extension on their OPT, or working under a not-so-competitive H1-B. The tough part now, will be acquiring a job.