New Study: Curbing Optional Practical Training Program for Foreign-Born Students Would Jeopardize American Jobs and Hurt U.S. Economy

Restricting Opportunities for High-Skilled Immigrants Would Lead to 443,000 Lost Jobs, Lower Wages

December 12, 2018

WashingtonNew economic analysis from Business Roundtable shows that scaling back Optional Practical Training (OPT) – a program that offers high-skilled immigrants opportunities to contribute to the American economy – would result in the loss of 443,000 jobs over the next decade, including 255,000 jobs held by U.S.-born workers.  

The study – prepared by the Interindustry Forecasting Project at the University of Maryland – shows how new restrictions and caps on OPT proposed by the Administration would result in a significant decline in program participation, all leading to negative economic consequences.

“The Optional Practical Training program for student immigrants – especially in STEM fields – has contributed to U.S. economic growth and competitiveness with well-educated workers and new entrepreneurs,” said Chuck Robbins, Chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems, Inc. and Chair of the Business Roundtable Immigration Committee. “Embracing high-skilled talent from everywhere creates opportunities for U.S. workers and businesses. As the Administration conducts its review of immigration rules, it should not create new policies that restrict students’ participation in OPT.”

Implemented in 1992, OPT offers temporary employment authorization to foreign-born students in the U.S. for up to 12 months, allowing eligible students and recent graduates to gain valuable work experience. The law was amended in 2008 to include a 17-month extension of OPT employment authorization for students who earn a degree in certain science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields. The STEM extension was expanded to 24 months in 2016, increasing the maximum period of OPT to 36 months for eligible STEM students. 

With the Administration indicating plans to scale back a variety of existing immigration channels that would directly or indirectly affect OPT, the study modeled a scenario in which new immigration policies lead to a 35 percent reduction in the issuance of foreign-born student visas and a 60 percent decline in OPT participation by 2020. In addition to job loss, the analysis also shows that restrictions on OPT would lead to:

  • A 17-cent decline in the average real hourly wage by 2028, due to increased slack in the labor market and fewer productivity gains; and
  • A decrease in real U.S. gross domestic product by about a quarter of a percentage point by 2028, caused by a decline in immigrant consumers and workers who would otherwise reducing hiring shortages and fill skills gaps.

Click here to read the full study.