US District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton upheld the STEM OPT program by the Department of Homeland Security in a lawsuit brought against the department by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers. This ruling upheld that foreign graduates of accredited US academic institutions with STEM degrees work in the United States for up to three years post-graduation.
This ruling comes with some history and some unlikely characters. In 2008, DHS enacted the STEM OPT rule which allowed OPT workers with STEM degrees to apply for an additional 17 months of OPT. The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers sued claiming that this rule exceeded the department’s authority. The courts upheld the rule but declared that DHS did not meet obligations for notice and comment before codifying the rule. Ultimately, this backfired from Washington Alliance because in 2016, DHS met notice and comment obligations when it proposed the current STEM OPT rule, which increased the extension to 24 months.
Again, the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers sued claiming the rule exceeded the authority of DHS. Who came out in defense of the rule? The National Association of Manufacturers, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Information Technology Industry Council gave their input that the extension program is beneficial to the country’s STEM industries, education system, and economy. An unlikely suspect – the Trump Administration – also came out in support of the STEM OPT extension.
While the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers is not expected to back down, this is good news for STEM OPT program applicants and the employers that hire them. To apply for a STEM OPT extension, applicants must be in a valid period of OPT and have earned at least a bachelor’s degree in a STEM specialization from a US Department of Education-recognized accredited academic institution. Practical training must be directly related to the STEM degree and the employer must meet specific requirements and responsibilities, including the training obligation.
If you are currently in OPT for a non-STEM degree but have earned a STEM degree in the United States, you may still be eligible for the STEM OPT extension, provided that the STEM OPT job is directly related to the STEM degree.
If you, or if your employee or client is having OPT or STEM OPT issues, visit www.ccifree.com for a free review of your case. We will respond in 4 hours or less.
Sheila Danzig is the director of CCI TheDegreePeople.com. Sheila specializes in overturning RFEs and Denials for work visas.