Court Upholds Optional Practical Training for Qualifying Students, STEM
On October 4, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the judgment of the district court sustaining the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) current Optional Practical Training (OPT) rule. This rule authorizes a limited duration of post-coursework OPT if recommended and overseen by the school and approved by DHS, for qualifying students on F-1 visas. Students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) fields are granted an additional 24 months beyond the standard OPT period of 12 months.
The court held that this authorization allows students to engage in limited periods of employment for practical training per their school’s recommendation, declaring it a valid exercise of DHS’s authority according to the terms described in the rule. Considering that more than ten percent of international students complete a period of practical training, the court also noted that “practical training…often is essential to students’ ability to correctly use what they have learned when they return to their home countries. That is especially so in STEM fields, where hands-on work is critical for understanding fast-moving technological and scientific developments.”
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