Concerned international students in the US worry that OPT processing delays in Arizona and Texas could result in them having to leave the country because they won't receive the correct employment authorisation before their current visa status expires.
US authorities have threatened to "terminate" designated school officials who they claim are engaged in "wilful ignorance or a level of negligence" when placing students in OPT programs, as they announced 15 arrests as a result of work permit fraud.
Sector stakeholders have condemned the latest attempt to undermine the Optional Practical Training program, highlighting evidence that shows OPT creates – rather than takes away – employment for US citizens.
Recent changes in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement regulations mean that designated school officials are now required to carry out an increased range of responsibilities, proving and recording that students are undertaking OPT workplace-based training in a relevant field to their studies.
A record number of international graduates of US institutions were authorised to work in the country through the Optional Practical Training program in 2017, but growth has "slowed dramatically" according to a Pew Research Center analysis.