Extended OPT legal for international STEM students

Supporters of OPT won a significant victory. On October 6, 2022, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has ruled to uphold the validity of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, including STEM extensions.

The OPT program gives students a chance to get on-the-job training related to their academic field post graduation.

This is the only post qualification work opportunity for students in the US and is a major factor in attracting foreign students. In which a significant number of Indian students are seen.

Eligible students can apply up to 12 months prior to the completion of their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or the completion of their academic studies (post-completion) to obtain OPT employment authorization. The 24-month extension STEM students can get and take the total authorized working time to 3 years.

Judge Cornelia Pillard wrote in her opinion that the OPT is in line with post-graduation programs that are more than 70 years old. In that time, Congress has amended the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) several times, they also said but never curbed the executive authority to allow F-1 students to stay in the country for post-graduation training. not installed.

Challenging a specific OPT rule, the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers’ Union (Wash Tech) said it went far beyond the scope of the F-1 visa category, which is issued to international academic students.

However, the US Court of Appeals said that “…the 2016 rule is appropriately concerned with the nature and purpose of the F-1 visa.” The court found that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designed the 2016 rule to advance the main purpose of admission to the F-1 visa class for those pursuing a full course of study at an established educational institution. “The rule imposes strict requirements to ensure a direct link between the F-1 student’s practical training and his coursework,” it added.

Under the 1992 rule, the OPT program enables international students to work for one year in the US on an F-1 (academic study visa) after their studies. Subsequently, a rule introduced in 2016 allowed international STEM students to receive a further OPT extension of up to 24 months, with an OPT term of three years available.

According to the 2021 Open Doors Report, there were 1.67 lakh Indian students in the US which is 18% of the total number of international students in the US.

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