OPT & the 17th Month Extension

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OPT / Optional Practical Training / 12 – Month Training Period Work Authorization

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The OPT is a special training program for foreign students with F1 visa which enables the student to spend up to a year working at jobs related to their area of study, regardless of their field, either before or after they graduated. This rule came into existence in 1991, when the George H.W. Bush administration. Employers are not required to deduct (pay) Social Security or Medicare taxes for these workers.

In 2008, the George W. Bush administration extended the length from 12 months to 29 months for students with STEM degrees.

In March 2014, the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech), brought a law suit against DHS in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit claims that the OPT program violates U.S. law and disadvantages the U.S. workers by increasing competition for STEM jobs. In November of 2014 federal judge granted the plaintiff standing, which meant that the case could go further into motion.

In August 2015, the federal judge ruled that the OPT program itself is allowed to stand, but the 17-month extension granted in 2008 is invalid due to the nature of DHS’s process to implement the extension in 2008.DHS failed to provide the proper notices and opportunity for comment.The judge also granted that the current extension to the OPT to be valid till February 12 2016. This extension gives DHS sufficient time to publish a new proposed ruling for OPT extension.

Due to delays in DHS to come up with a new rule by December 12 (60 days before the actual date), caused uncertainty and confusion to the foreign students and the employers. Later in December, DHS filed a motion requesting the extension of the dead line by 3 additional months which was granted and now DHS is working on a new rule to go into effect before the May 10th Deadline.May, which Huvelle granted on 23 January.

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