GWC and the national UAW argued for enhancements to the OPT program in public comments submitted to the Department of Homeland Security yesterday. Thanks to many of you participating in our OPT Information Session and Q&A in September and filling out surveys about the issues, we made a strong statement to DHS in favor of expanded opportunities for international students after graduation and to ensure that all workers receive equal compensation, benefits and workplace rights, regardless of visa status.

Based on feedback across campus, and from RAs and TAs at other universities, we worked with the national UAW to submit a comment and left a comment as GWC as well. When we act collectively, we have a stronger political voice on issues that affect us. UAW President Dennis Williams submitted comments that included the following:

While earning advanced degrees at top-notch institutions, graduate employees play a critical role in performing innovative and socially-valuable research projects, such as attempting to cure major diseases (cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.), address climate change, solve urban transportation problems, create new medical technologies, and others. UAW urges you to extend the program with the significant enhancements mentioned previously, which will ensure fair and equal treatment and help expand opportunities for international students to remain and work lawfully in the US after graduation.

You can read the full UAW comment here and our Graduate Workers of Columbia comment here.

Last month the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed new rules for Improving and Expanding Training Opportunities for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students With STEM Degrees and Cap-Gap Relief for All Eligible F-1 Students – expanding the Optional Practical Training (OPT) extensions for graduates in the Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. As one of the few options international students have to work in the United States after graduation OPT plays an important role in the lives of tens of thousands of international students across the country and here on our campus.

Read more about what’s been happening with the OPT STEM extension and the work we’ve been doing on it here.

We are committed to watching this issue and will update everyone as soon as there are any new developments.If you would like to get more involved with this issue and/or other international student issues we encourage you to get involved with our international student working group.