Detail from a US visa document. Selective focus with point of focus in the center of the picture.

    President Obama issued a new executive action that would grant work permits to foreign workers who are in the country on temporary work visas and have applied for employment-based green cards if implemented.

    The action would also extend the length of work permits for foreign STEM students who participate in the Optional Training Program (OPT).

    The President issued the proposed 181-page executive action just before the New Year’s holiday in an attempt to avoid public pushback.

    The proposed action would override current visa caps established in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1952.

    The executive action would offer extensions to high-skilled foreign H-1B workers, providing more time to be approved for a permanent employment-based green card.

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    The INA states that no country may receive more than 7 percent of the total number of green cards available in a given year. The executive action would bypass the INA per-country caps for H-1B workers, essentially providing them with a fast track to U.S. citizenship.

    The executive action would also offer a 180-day extension to any foreign student participating in the OPT program. The OPT program is often called the “mini H-1B program” since many of the students are hired on the H-1B visa once their OPT work permit expires. This extension would give more time for foreign students to stay and work in the country until issued a H-1B visa.

    This action comes after the 17-month OPT extension for STEM students is set to expire in February unless the federal courts provide DHS with a 3-month extension of the program in order to complete the process to replace the rule.

    The new DHS rule will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, Jan 7, with a public comment period running through the end of February. At that time, DHS must respond to every comment submitted before finalizing and implementing the rule.

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