On Friday, January 23, 2016, the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the vacatur of the present STEM OPT rules be stayed until May 10, 2016. This action comes as a relief to international students currently on F-1 OPT STEM extension or who are eligible for such extension, as well as their employers and their schools' international student offices. Pursuant to this latest order, the current 17-month extension of OPT, available to students who graduated from a U.S. college or university with a STEM degree, will remain in place until at least May 10, 2016 while we await publication of the final rule on STEM OPT from the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS").
To recap, the Washington Alliance of Technology workers sued DHS last year, arguing that DHS had not engaged in proper notice and comment when it promulgated the 2008 regulations that enabled F-1 students to seek an 17-month extension of work authorization pursuant to their period of Optional Practical Training ("OPT") after completing their studies in the U.S. In August 2015, the U.S. District Court agreed with the Washington Alliance of Technology workers and ordered the current STEM OPT rules that allowed for a 17 month extension in work authorization be vacated as of February 12, 2016 unless DHS corrected its procedural deficiency. In October 2015, DHS published the new proposed STEM OPT rule and received over 50,000 comments in response. On December 22, 2015, DHS filed a motion requesting the court permit the existing STEM OPT extension program to continue until May 10, 2016 to enable the agency time to address a majority of the comments received when publishing its final rule. This most recent order, dated January 23, 2016 and available to view here, allows DHS's motion and thus extends the existing STEM OPT program rules from 2008 through the spring.
We expect DHS will publish its final rule in the coming months with a number of important changes to the STEM OPT program. The attorneys of Iandoli, Desai & Cronin P.C. will continue to post updates on this important news at www.iandoli.com/newsandupdates. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions about STEM OPT, the proposed regulations, and any other immigration related questions.