US court ruling against STEM OPT extension would impact international students in USA

August 20, 2015
International students in the US working in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) degrees may found tough to continue legally after completing their graduation.

The ruling of the US district court of Columbia has invalidated the extension of optional practical training (OPT) for STEM students which remained to be one of the country’s most popular employment programs.

US court ruling against STEM OPT extension is setback for international students in USA

The United States OPT program allows the international graduate and undergraduate students who had completed their pursuant degrees to work for a year in their related field of study. The department of homeland security (DHS) in 2008 had announced a 17-month extension for the STEM students majors under OPT program.

The federal judge of US district court of concluded that the DHS rule was issued without any proper public notice and the comment and, therefore, invalidated the extension. However, the rule would be temporarily in effect as the instantaneous effect would adversely affect the students and face hardships, and the court ordered a stay until Feb 12, 2016.

The judgment followed after the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers challenged the extension and sued the DHS in March 2014.

In 2013, there were 123,328 OPT applications approved, and about 25,081 students have been using 17-month extension under OPT program, according to the report provided by government accountability office (GAO) in 2014.

With the loss of OPT extension would impact the employment flexibility for students and substantially increase the student dependency on the employer sponsorship. However, the current OPT extension holders will not be impacted during the stay period.

The STEM extension was mainly intended to ease the impact of H-1b oversubscriptions and H-1b issuance cap. With the invalidation of OPT extension, students who are waiting for H-1B visa have to leave the US. It should be noted that the DHS may reissue the rule before the final date in the next year.

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