Rule change gives overseas students extra employment time

A number of overseas students studying in universities in the United States may soon be able to rest easier in the knowledge that they will have an additional seven months in which to find employment. On Friday the federal government will be issuing new rules to enable overseas students who are gaining degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields to remain in the US for as long as three years following graduation while they look for related work.

The new rules will come into effect on May 10. Previously, STEM Optional Practical Training program rules gave graduates just 29 months in which they could stay in the United States after graduation in order to look for work. The rule being extended would give these students the chance to apply for a H-1B US visa, which allows people who have specialty occupations to remain in the country on a permanent basis.

However, the new rule has come in for fierce criticism from technology workers who are already unable to find a job and who believe that wages for American citizens will end up being driven down by making more immigrant workers available. Companies have also faced criticism for having abused the H-1B US visa program, with allegations being that disproportionate numbers of workers are coming from countries such as India.

Others fear tech firms are so reliant on foreign workers because they can get away with denying them basic protections guaranteed to American workers, such as minimum wage.