Home » Headline » Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions plan to end OPT for F-1 visa students, restrict H-1B visa

Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions plan to end OPT for F-1 visa students, restrict H-1B visa

The dangers of a Donald Trump or Ted Cruz presidency.

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By Sujeet Rajan

Sujeet Rajan

NEW YORK: Foreign workers hoping to be employed in the US on an H-1B visa and foreign students who plan to study in the US on an F-1 visa, with hope of working in the country upon graduation, could be in for a rude shock if GOP presidential nominee frontrunner and businessman Donald Trump or even Texas Sen. Ted Cruz assumes office in the White House: plans are afoot to restrict and immobilize the H-1B program, as well as eliminate the Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization for students upon graduation.

Numerous bills to either expand or curb work visas, like the H-1B program, have been introduced for years and decades in the US Congress. Most die either in the Senate or House. If it advances through either, mostly it fails to muster bipartisan support in the other.

RELATED: Will Donald Trump clamp down on H-1B visas?

Rep. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the chair of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, who introduced ‘The American Jobs First Act of 2015’ – along with Cruz – in December, became the first incumbent US Senator to endorse Trump for President, on Sunday.

Sessions was first seen alongside Trump at a rally last summer in Alabama. He was since then rumored to be advising Trump on key immigration issues. Sessions is one of the top Republican hawks against illegal immigration, and an advocate of protecting American jobs.

At a rally in Madison, Alabama, this past Sunday, where Sessions endorsed Trump, two former Disney World workers from Florida who were laid off and replaced by workers on H-1B visa, also spoke of their travails and lambasted the H-1B program, with Trump listening and looking on.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump
Presidential candidate Donald Trump

The bill introduced in December by Sessions and Cruz – which the latter supported also in an effort to get rid of the tag of him being pro-H-1B program earlier; even proposing to increase by 500% the number of such visas granted annually – imposes tall and harsh conditions on US employers before they can employ a worker on an H-1B visa. It also calls to end the popular OPT, a mainstay of academic programs for foreign students, for F1 visa students.

Some of the laws proposed in the bill:

  • Pay an H-1B worker either what an American worker who did identical or similar work made two years prior to the recruiting effort, or minimum salary of $110,000, whichever is higher. The minimum wage would be adjusted annually for inflation.
  • Those who qualify for an H-1B visa should have an advanced degree, and would require certification from university and be in accordance with academic standards in the US.
  • Prohibit H-1B workers from paying penalties to their employers for leaving a job before the end of a contract date.
  • Prohibit employers from requiring an H-1B worker to pay fees for housing, vehicular transportation, among others.
  • A ‘layoff cool-off period of two years, preventing an employer from bringing in an H-1B worker within 730 days of a strike, layoff, furlough or other involuntary employee terminations.
  • ‘Real-time online updating’ of H-1B applications and usage.
  • Eliminate the Optional Practical Training Program (OPT), which provides a means to work via a F-1 student visa in the US.
  • Prohibit employment authorization document (EAD) to anyone on student visa or F-1 status (who is no longer engaged in full time study) under the OPT program or a successor program, “without an express Act of Congress authorizing such a program.”

Cruz has also made it apparent in past statements that he, along with Sessions, plan to immobilize, place a moratorium on the H-1B program, till an investigation is conducted on companies who hire workers on visas.

“We (with Sessions) designed this together really to work in concert with what I have announced which is if I’m elected president I intend to impose a moratorium on the H-1B program and audit every company that has received this visas to determine whether they’re abusing the program. And if they’re abusing the program, they will be suspended from the program—and if they’ve violated the law, they will be prosecuted,” said Cruz, in a statement.

Cruz has said that the bill is “to prevent employers from using the program to replace hard-working American men and woman with cheaper foreign labor.”

If Trump or Cruz were to become president, they don’t even need this bill to go through Congress. Both Trump and Cruz are reportedly hugely unpopular on Capitol Hill. They are unlikely to muster bipartisan support for their measures. But they don’t need to. They could use executive power to make this bill, and any other they wish to, a reality, once they have the power of the presidential pen.

However, the ramifications of the bill introduced by Sessions and Cruz goes beyond just imposing restrictions on H-1B visa employment. It strikes at the very heart of the curriculum developed by universities and educational institutions in the US to attract foreign students, retain the best of them to work and for students to gain permanent residency in the US over a period of time.

Ted Cruz (Courtesy of his Twitter profile)
Ted Cruz (Courtesy of his Twitter profile)

Apart from the fact that a majority of the foreign students – especially those who pay tuition fees in full for a degree and other related expenses – would not invest the exorbitant amount for a 2-year or a 4-year degree program without assurance of the opportunity of some job experience thereafter or prospects of long-term employment, the bill would shut out majority of non-STEM students from being employed. The salary requirement of $110,000 minimum is not likely to be met for a fresh graduate in the arts or humanities fields of study.

It would mean most students finish their programs and then return immediately back to their home country. Students wanting a degree in some cutting edge technology and MBA studies may still think it beneficial, but most others would rather go to more welcoming nations with better job prospects like Canada or Australia, and in Europe.

There is at present a separate quota of 20,000 H-1B visas annually, apart from the 65,000 H-1B visas, specifically for foreign graduates of US universities. However, with the clause of advanced degrees being inserted into the language of the bill, an undergraduate degree would not suffice to apply for visas in that quota. Only those with masters degrees or higher would be in contention.

Interestingly, the OPT program is at present in the process of being amended and extended by the Obama administration. Initially good for a period of 12 months, the OPT for F-1 students – the ability to work anywhere in the country for any employer who wishes to hire them, with no salary restrictions – was extended in 2008 to 29 months for STEM students. It has now been extended to 36 months for STEM students. For non-STEM students it’s still 12 months. However, a lawsuit may yet see impediments to these changes.

Sessions has said in the past that the OPT for F-1 visa students is “a backdoor method for replacing American workers.”

Indian IT service companies like Infosys, TCS, Wipro and Cognizant, among others, would also be hard hit by the provisions of the bill by Sessions and Cruz. It would be a game changer for them. Not only would it hit their bottom line hard, it would make them rethink and put in place new strategies in the long run for North America.

The pertinent question for now is: will Trump or Cruz become the next president of the US?

(Sujeet Rajan is Editor-in-Chief, The American Bazaar. Follow him @SujeetRajan1)



  • Shobhit

    You make no fucking sense!

  • Shobhit

    Exactly!! Fucking South Indians, can’t even speak English properly and look like Shit, but want to migrate to US at any cost!

  • jaykayDX

    Russia wants NO PART of the US – they already have too many fools there as well! Russia, China and Iran are all working together to form a bloc against the USA’s imperialistic ambitions – and Trump (unlike the other candidates) has realized that the USA has already lost in Syria – expect more sabre-rattling against China but no attempts at regime change from the US as Trump has realized that they will lose any battle. It matters not in the end though – expect China to slowly dump the dollar and turn the US into a third world country soon enough!

  • jaykayDX

    Brilliant – I was wondering when the first person would come blaming Muslims/Christians/South Indians/Bengalis/any other minor group for the problems we Indians AS A WHOLE create for ourselves! Before Clinton, Indians weren’t even allowed into the USA’s visa lottery – they were worried we would swarm into their country in droves and then infect the nation with our corruption and influence their politics – and they were right!

  • jaykayDX

    Excellent. I warned all those Hindus voting for Modi that they were essentially cutting their nose off to spite their face by voting for him – He has his own money and doesn’t need to be bought off unlike the other desperate crooks whose election campaigns Indians fund to ensure pro-India policies – now enjoy the fallout while the rest of Asia and the world pivot towards China while ONLY India, Japan and South Korea latch onto a crumbling superpower like the USA. Gee, I wonder how long before Trump starts to blame Indians for all the corruption in US politics? After all he needs a scapegoat to blame to prevent any close scrutiny for all his previous failures, right?

  • Pathfinder

    The most detailed post on this topic is here. Very detailed discussion on what is likely to happen with H1B’s. Everyone should read this as the changes are coming, whether we like it or not !

    http://blog.perchingtree.com/trump-uncertaintity-h1b-visa/

  • Letruth

    All the brainy hard-working “aliens’ and oppressed minority citizens should just leave and go to Canada, South Africa, Ghana or even Cuba. Russia is no longer an option as the USA is now a part of Russia. Maybe that’s not such a good idea since the remaining buffoons would probably destroy themselves and the world.

  • Stuff-in-yer-curry

    H-1B scum need to be deported now. Enough with the employment of these incompetent.

  • PeacefulWarrior

    @Trump2016Yes
    Its much easier to find jobs for citizens or greencard holders since Obama took office.
    Almost 70 to 80% openings on Dice/Indeed require either GC or citizen to even get an interview.
    This bill will fail and pretty certain Trump won’t be the next President.I really hope he does become thou , as in the past its Republicans (esp George Bush) who always helped H1b visa holders

  • Akki

    85% of the students enrolled in a masters program in American universities are Asians (based upon my observation as a student in a Masters program at a private university around NYC), that means the school gets double the amount of money on fees which they seek from natives. A huge chunk of this money and talent goes into researches which remains the backbone of this country on every front. Imagine stopping such universities from accepting alien students, that would surely not stop them from seeking higher education. What if some other country like Russia increases its capacity to take students from outside of Russia, the whole market (business, jobs, money, research) shifts there. Businesses to move out of America. And who is going to eventually suffer in the turnover of such an event?

  • Nutella

    All H-1Bs are illegal. Title 8, Section 1182 Inadmissible Aliens. They were all supposed to go home in 2002 after Y2K, not take over America and rob its citizens of their industries. Shut down the entire H-1B program now, mass deport any whom remain.

  • Vic

    The purpose of the H1 is to allow US companies seeking to hire foreign people for whatever real underlying reason; often assumed to be lower cost , while not always true, let’s say that assumption is true 90% of time. Given that market pressure to hire the lower cost worker, and given that there will be legal and political pressure to decrease available H1 visas. what do you think will happen? If you are the employer who needed work done, and for cheap and could no longer hire in the US with a H1 visa, what would you do? You will consider getting the work done overseas, you will form a company where the labor is and send the jobs there! There is no legal/political pressure keeping US companies from doing that. The whole problem started in the late 90s, before then American employers were unaware of the fact that there are skilled english speakers available overseas, especially India. They thought Indians ride elephants and eat rats (per a popular Discovery channel documentary). It was the pressure of lower H1 visa availability and high legal cost (~$10,000 per person) that caused them to look overseas for outsourcing. So, till you place a legal requirement making it harder to export the job, any further limits on H1 will create an even more powerful outflow of jobs. If you want jobs here, you gotta have people working here and spending here. H1 is better than No workers, no spending and no jobs.

  • Troup

    #TRUMP

    I hope no American ever has to go through the humiliation of training their TATA India,Inc foreign guestworker as we did at Siemens ICN Lake Mary, Fl.

    #TRUMP #Sessions #TRUMP

  • Trump2016Yes!

    Dear Sujeet, I guess when two prominent presidential candidates say H-1b is wrong and damages the USA, maybe there’s something to their reasoning? People are finally waking up to this scam now. Zuckerberg and Gates and Ellison simply want workers who cannot quit. Well who doesn’t? Just because they want that doesn’t mean that, in a representative democracy like the USA, they should or must get what they want just because they are willing to pay the U.S. Congress for it.

  • jake leone

    H-1b and OPT make it possible for employers to bypass Americans and Green card holders. And that makes a huge difference, and far outweighs any of the fixed fees or lawyer costs.

    Look, InfoSys and Tata and the biggest users of H-1b visas, and they almost never hire Americans or Green card holders. We should say on point, kick the Offshore Outsourcing companies out of the H-1b system, let them turn to the free market for their hiring needs, hey try Capitalism instead of a Government hand-out of an indentured servant.