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OPT enrollments slow as labor market tightens

While the number of foreign college graduates in Florida who obtained temporary work visas through the optional practical training program, or OPT, grew in 2017, participation in the program has dramatically slowed. The decreased participation comes at a time when unemployment is also low, which might make it harder for some employers to find the workers that they need.

The optional practical training program allows foreign college graduates in the science, technology, engineering and math fields to remain in the U.S. and work. In 2016, the length of time that participants could work in the U.S. was increased from 12 months to 36 months. Since taking office, the Trump administration has placed additional restrictions on the program. Foreign college graduates are now required to work at their employer's principal place of business rather than performing work for their employers at third-party client sites.

In 2017, 276,500 foreign graduates received work authorizations under the program, which was up from 257,100 foreign graduates who received work authorizations in 2016. However, the number of people who enrolled in the program only increased by 8 percent while the number of enrollees in 2016 increased by 34 percent.

Employers rely on programs like the OPT to fill positions at their workplaces. Employment immigration may help employers to fill highly skilled jobs with workers in a tight labor market. People who want to learn more about the OPT program and other employment visas might benefit by talking to experienced immigration law attorneys. An attorney may be able to identify work visa programs that help employers to fill their open positions. An attorney may also help their clients complete the required petitions and gather documents to support them.

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