Judge Grants Extension of Work Program for International Students

January 25, 2016

The current rule governing a popular postgraduation work program for international students will remain in place until May 10.

The regulation governing the STEM OPT program, which grants students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields the right to spend an additional 17 months working in the U.S. on top of the 12 months available to all international students, was set to expire Feb. 12 after a federal judge ruled the regulation invalid on procedural grounds. In a decision issued Saturday, however, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle granted the Department of Homeland Security’s request that the ruling be stayed for an additional 90 days, which the agency argued would give it time to implement a new proposed rule for the program and prevent disruption or hardship for participating students and employers.

“The significance of that hardship cannot be overstated,” Judge Huvelle wrote. “According to DHS, there are approximately 23,000 STEM OPT participants, 2,300 dependents of STEM OPT participants, 8,000 pending applications for STEM OPT extensions and 434,000 foreign students who might be eligible to apply for STEM OPT authorizations … If the stay is not extended, many of these people would be adversely affected, either by losing their existing work authorization, not being able to apply for the OPT extension or not knowing whether they will be able to benefit from the extension in the future. And of course, the U.S. tech sector will lose employees, and U.S. educational institutions could conceivably become less attractive to foreign students.”

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