Has Cornell been advocating for international students relying on OPT work authorization?

Date: April 2020


Dear Deans:

In light of the recent Executive Order, many international students fear for our uncertain and mercurial future. Even though the current  proclamation does not affect nonimmigrant programs, section six of the order does shed light on the possibility that the Trump administration will curb nonimmigrant work visas after 30 days. It reads: “Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.”

Many graduating international students, including myself, are relying on our OPT work authorization to accept employment and contribute to a society that has given us so much. I feel very fortunate to have been offered a tenure-track position in another state and am currently waiting for my OPT application to be approved. However, I and many students are apprehensive about what will ensue in 30 days. 

I was wondering if Cornell has been advocating for students like me and whether there’s anything we can do to have our voices heard. Someone I know  has recommended that I reach out to Representative Tom Reed. However, since foreign students are not technically his constituents, I’m not sure there’s much he can do to help. Our only hope is that Cornell will advocate on our behalf.


International Student Heading to Tenure-Track Position


Dear International Student Heading to Tenure-Track Position,

Thanks very much for your interest in advocating on these issues. I checked in with Cornell’s Senior Director for Federal Relations. She sends her assurances that the Cornell Office of Federal Relations is a strong advocate for our international students. Even before the pandemic hit, they were working with our Representatives and Senators to advocate for students regarding the Trump Administration’s concerning immigration policies, to ensure that our students and graduates could pursue their educations and careers in the U.S. They also work actively with higher education associations, colleagues from other universities, and business/tech groups that have a stake in encouraging a highly skilled immigrant workforce to remain in the U.S.

It would be appropriate for you (and your fellow students) to reach out to Mr. Reed. Even though you may not be able to vote for that office holder, you are a legal resident of the 23rd Congressional district. Mr. Reed’s office has been very helpful providing needed services from the federal government, such as helping international students with visas. Mr. Reed has a good track record on immigration issues, and favors policies like OPT that allow highly skilled immigrants to stay in the U.S. post-graduation. It’s helpful for him to have concrete examples to use in his advocacy. If you contact him, emphasize the economic importance to the U.S. of your research/scholarship and the contributions you hope to make in the U.S. putting your Cornell education to work.

You also can get in touch with the Representatives and Senators in the state where your position is located. They also have a stake in your remaining in the U.S. after graduation.

Best wishes with completing your studies, and taking on your faculty position,


Barbara A. Knuth
Dean of the Graduate School