Federal court rules OPT extension is invalid

A federal court found the 17-month extension to the F-1 optional practical training (OPT) program invalid, ruling that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not follow required procedures, Inside Higher Ed reports. The National Law Review notes that “there is no immediate impact on STEM or ‘cap-gap’ OPT extensions” and the ruling will continue to have no impact if DHS reissues the rule and follows proper procedures prior to February 12, 2016.

OPT allows international graduates from U.S. institutions to pursue 12 months of employment for practical training following their graduation. The OPT extension – published by DHS in 2008 and now ruled invalid by the court – added 17 months of employment eligibility for international graduates with degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) fields.

The National Law Review describes the impact of the court’s ruling in further detail:

“The judge’s decision jeopardizes the current STEM OPT program, but does not invalidate the employment authorization for current STEM extension holders, nor does it preclude an individual from applying for and being granted a STEM extension up until February 12, 2016. With the six month vacatur, DHS should have sufficient time to issue the rule again for notice and comment and finalization prior to February 12, 2016. If DHS follows the Court’s direction, there should continue to be no impact on STEM or “cap-gap” OPT extensions.”

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