Looser Rules for H-1B US Visa Alternative

Federal immigration authorities have reversed a recently-imposed restriction on the work permit for overseas students and graduates, known as the Optional Practical Training (OPT), which is often seen as an alternative version of the troubled H-1B US visa program. The reversal is likely to benefit outsourcing and staffing firms offering overseas employees to tech companies in Silicon Valley.

But, an immigration expert thinks that any benefit to these companies will not last long. The change was announced last week in a two-paragraph notice on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website. OPT permit holders, who are overseas graduates or students in tech fields, who can work for as long as three years either after or during college, are again allowed to work for outsourcing and staffing firms that hire them out to other companies.

The change removes a restriction imposed by the agency earlier in 2018, which banned OPT holders from working outside the principal offices of a company or in areas that immigration officers would find difficult to access. The ban essentially prevented outsourcers and staffing firms, companies that have been attacked by critics over alleged abuses of the H-1B US visa program, from being able to use the OPT program.

But, the immigration lawyer, Patricia Gannon says that the imposition of the ban failed to follow the Administrative Procedure Act, and that is why it has been lifted, and she believes it will be reinstated sooner rather than later.