Extension of Optional Practical Training for Foreign Students

This public interest comment to the Department of Homeland Security by Mercatus Graduate Fellow Mark Adams reccomends specific inclusions be made to the Optional Practical Training (OPT) final rule.


The Regulation

Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows foreign students to remain in the US for one year after the completion of studies.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued an interim final rule extending this by 17 months (to a total of 29 months) for students with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

DHS also proposes closing the "cap gap," the four month period between OPT expiring and the earliest start date for an H1-B visa (a special visa for highly skilled migrants).

Our Findings

Making it easier for students to remain in the US for longer will alleviate restrictions on skilled migration caused by the H1-B visa cap and:

  • Increase exports
  • Benefit domestic students
  • Raise productivity and wages for domestic workers
  • Increase US competiveness

The decision to limit the 17 month extension to STEM students will also limit the potential benefits of the extension


DHS should continue with the interim final rule but should extend the rule to include other students.  In particular,  DHS should consider applying the rule to students of business, finance, economics and related disciplines.

To speak with a scholar or learn more on this topic, visit our contact page.