ASBMB opposes the American Tech Workforce Act of 2021

Jan. 12, 2022

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology opposes the American Tech Workforce Act of 2021, introduced by U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind. If passed, this bill would end the Optional Practical Training program and create a wage floor for H1B visa holders that is higher than the median wage for Americans.  

The Optional Practical Training program allows students on visas in the U.S. to receive up to 12 months of employment authorization either before or after completing their academic studies. (STEM students can receive up to three years of employment authorization.) Ending this program would jeopardize the U.S.’s ability to attract and retain international students and scholars. Studies have shown that even though the number of foreign students approved for OPT has risen, the program does not reduce job opportunities for U.S. workers and, in fact, the program acts as a safety valve when U.S. workers are scarce. Furthermore, other studies have shown how important international students and scholars are to the U.S. economy.  

Curbing or altogether eliminating OPT could cost hundreds of thousands of jobs for U.S.-born workers. The OTP program ensures that the pool of labor increases, which allows businesses to expand and thereby create more jobs (that are often filled by American workers). Without programs like OPT, the U.S. would face a significant shortage of STEM workers. 

The American Tech Workforce Act of 2021 aims to bolster American workers in the technology industry, but, unfortunately, this bill would have a detrimental impact on the American research enterprise by severely shrinking the STEM workforce. 

Science thrives on international collaboration. The ASBMB supports changes to employment and immigration policies that would benefit international students and scholars who chose to study and work in the American research enterprise.