Lawsuit contesting OPT program for Intl students to continue


The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers Union (Wash Tech) has filed an appeal with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals against an order of the US district court that upheld the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program available to international students.

According to an update from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, on January 28, the US district court held that “DHS did not exceed its statutory authority in issuing the OPT Program Rule.”

This means that the district court concluded that both the standard 12-month OPT and the STEM OPT extension programs were lawfully within DHS’s authority to promulgate.” On the same day, Wash Tech appealed against this order, adds this update.

In an interim order passed on November 30, 2020, wherein Judge Reggie B Walton, of the district court of Columbia, had ‘denied the plaintiffs motion to strike’.

Under a 1992 regulation, the OPT program enables international students on F-1 (academic study visas) to work for one year in the US, post their studies.

Subsequently, a regulation introduced in 2016, enabled STEM students (those in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics field of study) to get a further OPT extension of up to 24 months.

As per the Open Doors Report, for the year 2019-20, nearly 18% of the total contingent of international students (or 1.93 lakh) were from India. Further, 81,173 were engaged in the OPT program.

Their petition was dismissed in 2016 and Wash Tech appealed. Later, a portion of the lawsuit that dealt with DHS’s lack of authority to set up the OPT program was sustained and the matter was taken up for hearing.

While the US district court held against Wash Tech, consequent to an appeal being filed, this matter may now be taken up by the higher court.