24-month extended OPT for STEM F-1 visa students could be revoked by May, 2017


NEW YORK: A year after the measure to extend the Optional Practical Training (OPT) for some students on F-1 visa studying for a STEM-related degree, by 24 months – apart from the regulation 12 months each and every foreign student can avail of during their program of study – for a total of three years, the Trump administration may come down hard on it, perhaps revoking the extended 24 months.

OPT is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 visa status, who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than 9 months, are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work for one year on a student visa towards getting practical training to complement their education.

Last year, on May 10, 2016, the USCIS under the Obama administration, extended the OPT for some students in STEM-related programs to three years, with an extension of 24 months.

This was following an April 2, 2008 directive, after the then Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff announced a 17-month extension to the OPT for students in qualifying STEM fields.

The extended 24 months OPT for some students studying STEM-related programs has been vehemently challenged in courts over the years by anti-immigration advocates, who have argued that students on F-1 visa take away jobs from American workers, and also distort wages as they could be hired for a much lower salary in the guise of getting experience.

On May 31, 2008, the Immigration Reform Law Institute filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of various organizations and individuals challenging the validity of the 17 month OPT extension.

A similar lawsuit in November 2014 challenging the STEM extension was successful, with a Federal court in Washington, DC giving the US government up to February 12, 2016 to formulate new rules. The deadline was subsequently extended by three months.

The last ruling on the issue came on May 10, 2016.

Now, a lawsuit by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WATW) will be again heard later this month in Federal court, and with the change in administration at the White House, the case may swing against extended OPT for F-1 visa students.

Earlier, WATW asked the court to issue a judgment in their favor with the contention that that DHS exceeded its authority by allowing F-1 students the ability to work. The DHS asked the judge to dismiss the case.

Last month, the court in its ruling, granted only part of DHS’ motion to dismiss, but also denied part of the motion to dismiss. No further details are available. The court, however, has said it would make a ruling within the next 30 days, which should happen toward the end of April, 2017.

The case is following on similar lines as a lawsuit against Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for H-4 visa holders, by another anti-immigration group, Save Jobs USA.

There’s a likelihood that with some hardliners against legal immigration in the Trump administration, spouses of H-1B visa workers and students on F-1 visa, may be at the receiving end.

UPDATE ON CASE, April 20, 2017: https://www.newsindiatimes.com/f-1-visa-24-month-opt-extension-lawsuit-dismissed/26338

(This post was updated on April 20, 2017)




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