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D.C. Circuit Upholds Decision to Maintain OPT Programs

On October 4, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the legality of the Department of Homeland Security’s post-graduate Optional Practical Training (OPT) programs. The opinion is in response to an appeal filed by Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech) in a lawsuit which claimed in part that the 2016 STEM OPT rule was issued in excess of DHS’s statutory authority. In affirming the November 2020 district court’s decision denying Washtech’s motion for summary judgment, the three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that the programs “reasonably relate to the terms of the F-1 visa.” The case is WashTech v. DHS, case number 21-5028, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The OPT program allows F-1 students who graduate from a U.S. university to work for 12 months in their field of study and for an additional 24 months if they have a degree in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM).

The OPT and STEM OPT programs continue to remain in place, though plaintiffs are expected to pursue further judicial review.

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