Reforming Optional Practical Training (OPT) to Enhance Technological Progress and Innovation


We propose bolstering the OPT program rather than undermining the United States’ edge in the global race for talent. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), within its statutory authority, should introduce the following reforms to the OPT program:

Increase eligible years of work for non–science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (non-STEM) graduates on OPT from one year to three years. Remove employer sponsorship requirements. Allow foreign graduates to work in industries unrelated to their field of study. Eliminate minimum-working-hour requirements for employment authorization. Streamline the I-765 issuance process to ensure that foreign graduates can obtain Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) within three months or less. Exempt OPT participants from the H-1B lottery process if they have acquired at least one year of work experience.

This brief will summarize extant evidence to support this proposal.