by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
immigration, science, technology, visa

Looks Like Visa Program For Science & Tech Grads Isn't Really Being Used For The Best & Brightest

from the unfortunate dept

theodp writes in to let us know:
"By enacting a controversial 'emergency' rule in 2008 allowing foreign students who earn degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) in the U.S. to work for American employers for 29 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) without the need for an H-1B visa, Department of Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff boasted he was 'giving U.S. companies a competitive advantage in the world economy.' Microsoft applauded the move, saying the program would allow U.S. companies to recruit and retain the 'best' science and tech students educated at the top U.S. universities. And last April, the DHS quashed a legal challenge to the program, telling the U.S. Supreme Court that 'the public interest would be disserved' without the program.

Noticeably absent from the DHS brief, however, were any details on the two-year old program's participants. But now, a Computerworld report suggests why the agency may have been less-than-eager to share any details with the Court. Not only is the DHS program dominated by for-profit Stratford University, whose 727 approved OPT STEM extension requests is more than twice the combined total of the entire Ivy League - Brown (26), Columbia (105), Cornell (90), Dartmouth (18), Harvard (27), Princeton (16), Penn (50), and Yale (9) - it turns out the program is also being embraced by IT outsourcing and offshoring companies like Kelly Services, whose entities snagged about 50 approvals, more than twice the combined total of Google (15), Amazon.com (2), Yahoo (2), and Facebook (3). More details on the 20,000 OPT STEM extension requests filed since mid-2008 can be found in Computerworld's interactive database."
I'll admit that I was a supporter of this program when it was first announced. I believe that we should absolutely be opening our borders to those skilled in science and technology, and keep them working in the US so that they're working to improve US competitiveness, rather than competing with US firms elsewhere. Unfortunately, it certainly looks like (as with the H-1B program) that it is not being used in the way it should be used. This is unfortunate, as anti-immigration folks will simply use this as evidence to block important, useful and job-creating immigration, insisting that all such efforts are abuses. That's not true, but when a program like this is not really being used for the best and brightest, then it's been improperly designed.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Nov 2010 @ 12:25pm

    So J&J lays off a bunch of people and then hires TCS (Tata Consulting) and haves them staff 800 indians that are flown in to work in NJ. How does that help America?

    Our universities have very high standards to get in if you are not rich, yet welcome foreign students (who pay very high tuition) how does this help American students?

    Things are not going in the right direction.

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