OPT Program to Continue After Supreme Court Refusal

The United States Supreme Court handed a major victory to universities, technology companies and international students on October 3 when it refused to review a case involving the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program.

In 2014, the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (Washtech) sought to legally challenge the program by claiming that the OPT STEM extension unlawfully allows companies to avoid the complex H1B visa program with its lottery and quotas by instead hiring recent foreign college graduates to temporarily fill positions.

The STEM OPT extension allows international students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, or math to work in the US for up to 36 months in a career related to their field of study. Those ineligible for the STEM extension can only work in the US for a total of 12 months on OPT. The STEM extension was introduced by the Department of Homeland Security in 2008 and updated in 2016.

The legal challenge brought by Washtech has been a long process, and was supported by numerous conservative lawmakers from 11 states. Critics have argued that the STEM extension was designed to provide international students with work experience, but has become nothing more than a large-scale temporary worker program without the many rules and safeguards of the H1B visa program.

However, with the nation’s highest court refusing to hear the case, the matter is now decided. The OPT program including the STEM extension will be allowed to continue unchanged, providing a valuable avenue for international students to gain work experience in the United States.

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