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U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn Introduces Foreign Student Immigration Reform Bill

June 23, 2021


June 22, 2021                                                                    


U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn Introduces Foreign Student Immigration Reform Bill


(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) introduced the Responsible Practical Training Act Friday. This bill updates the Optional Practical Training Program (OPT), a foreign student visa program that has grown far beyond its original design.


“Our immigration system needs walls and doors. We need walls to stop illegal immigration, but we also need to doors to allow people to come here legally. Unfortunately, we aren’t doing a good job on either front. We need to finish the border wall and fix doors that have come off their hinges. One example is the Optional Practical Training Program. The door to that program is swinging wide open and putting our economic and national security at risk. The Responsible Practical Training Act will fix that door and restore its original design,” Cawthorn said.


The Responsible Practical Training Act will eliminate OPT program extensions, limit participation to 6 months and limit participation in national security related fields. The bill also requires the Secretary of Labor to conduct a wage analysis to help Congress better understand the duties, hours, and compensation of foreign workers participating in the program as they relate to American workers.


In 2007 the annual cap on the OPT program (then set at 65,000) was removed and the duration of the program tripled without Congressional legislation. The number of students participating in the OPT program has risen from 24,838 in 2007, to 200,162 in 2018. Over the same period, the students participating in the STEM OPT extension has increased from 2 to 69,650. 


OPT currently allows foreign nationals to train in fields like Nuclear Engineering, Underseas Warfare, Cyber Warfare, Combat Systems Engineering, Military Applied Sciences, Military Systems Information Technology, Aircraft Armament Systems Technology, and many more military-related fields. In the 2018-2019 academic year, 31% of OPT program participants were Chinese nationals. Iran is also one of the top 5 participating countries. The Responsible Practical Training Act would end this aspect of OPT entirely. Foreign nationals would be prohibited from training in any military-related or sensitive fields.


Rep. Cawthorn is joined by his colleagues and original sponsors, U.S. Representatives Tom Tiffany, Greg Steube, Randy Weber, and Yvette Herrell.