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International Students and U.S. Business

A recent Forbes Op-Ed article, International Students Are Founding America’s Great Startups, by Stuart Anderson, highlights the high percentage of U.S. startup companies that have been founded by professionals who first came to the United States as international students.

The study, conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan public policy research organization of which Anderson is the executive director, finds that almost one quarter (20 out of 91)  of U.S. billion-dollar startups have a founder who first came to the U.S. as an  international student. These startups have a collective value of $9.6 billion and have created an average of more than 1,400 jobs per company.

Anderson argues that programs such as Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows foreign students to stay in the U.S. after graduation to work for a period of up to 12 months, gives foreign students an opportunity to join the U.S. workforce and find successful U.S. startups. He argues that the Trump Administration’s restrictions on foreign students will make it more difficult for these students to become valuable assets to the U.S. workforce.

According to Bloomberg Law, one example of a recent U.S. restriction on foreign students includes USCIS’ new interpretation of Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) guidelines. While OPT allows foreign students to work for up to 12 months after graduation, Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) allows student to work for up to 12 months while still enrolled in school. Until several months ago, a combination of OPT and CPT allowed foreign students to work in the U.S. for up to 24 months. Though USCIS has not officially announced a policy change, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has received reports that USICS has issued denials and requests for evidence for change of status petitions filed on behalf of foreign nationals who have used more than 12 months of CPT and OPT. AILA notes their concern that “USCIS has changed its established interpretation… finding that foreign nationals have not maintained status if they have more than 12 months of combined CPT and OPT time.”

Adjudicating officers at USICS can potentially deem foreign students who have worked for more than 12 months in the U.S. to have violated the terms of their student visas, and could bar them from returning to the U.S. for up to 10 years. This especially affects foreign students who seek to change to H-1B status once their OPT ends.

Please contact our office at immigrationinfo@cornerlaw.com if you have questions about the changes to CPT and OPT guidelines.