GLF has been receiving a lot of calls from anxious clients about the recent Federal District Court for the District of Columbia decision in Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech) v. DHS that vacated the 17-month Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension rule for STEM graduates and what it means.

By way of background, since 2008, F-1 students who graduated with degrees in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields were provided 17-month OPT extension, following the initial 12 months of OPT (which was available for all), for a total of 29 months.

In WashTech, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle has vacated the 17-month OPT extension rule as it was implemented by the DHS (US Department of Homeland and Security) without public notice and comment. Judge Huvelle has given DHS until February 12, 2016 to submit the 2008 17-OPT extension rule and subsequent amendments for Public Notice and Comment.

So, what does this mean to those currently on 17-month OPT – do they lose work authorization immediately and do they have to pack up and leave? Good news is NO.

Here is what the WashTech Decision means:

  1. DHS has until February 12, 2016 to submit the 2008 17-month OPT extension rule and subsequent amendments for Public notice and comment
  2. F-1 Students currently on 17-month STEM OPT will continue to retain work authorization
  3. F-1 students eligible for 17-month OPT extension may be able to apply for the extension before February 12, 2016

Good news is Judge Huvelle has left intact the legal basis for the OPT rule that has been in existence since at least 1947. As such, we are hopeful that DHS will go through the formal rule making process of the 2008 STEM OPT extension rule and in the end strengthen and expand the program. GLF is closely watching USCIS’s announcements and guidance on this very important issue and we will keep you posted as and when we hear from the USCIS.

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