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Immigration Issues and Resources

Court ruling on Optional Training Program

On Jan. 28, 2021, a federal court judge issued a final ruling in a case that had asked the court to strike down the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s 2016 Optional Practical Training (OPT) rule, which included extending the time that foreign students in the STEM fields can stay in this country to do work related to their studies from 17 to 24 months.

The judge noted that this revised rule was made to “to better ensure that students gain valuable practical STEM experience that supplements knowledge gained through their academic studies, while preventing adverse effects to [United States] workers.” The court had issued a non-final ruling on Nov. 30, 2020, and this decision is the final ruling and opinion setting forth its rationale for upholding this program. There is no indication whether the plaintiff will appeal the decision, but even if there is an appeal, this decision would remain in effect pending a decision by the federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

Stanford and other universities were allowed to file an amicus brief in this case, as the Court found that they had a special interest in the litigation and an important perspective for the Court’s evaluation of the case. That brief pointed out that OPT both permits international students to continue and deepen their education by applying the knowledge they learned to a professional setting and allows American institutions of higher education to attract the best and brightest students from around the world.