On Wednesday, August 12, 2015, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle vacated a 2008 ruling that extended the Optional Practical Training period for foreign students with STEM degrees by 17 months for an overall work period of 29 months. In the wake of this new ruling, many believe the Obama administration is likely to act on new regulations for the OPT program, which has become a major fallback for H-1B employers.
Optional Practical Training allows foreign students on F-1 visas to work while studying or after they’ve graduated. The program is a key way for skilled foreign nationals to be employed in the U.S. in the face of uncertainty created by the H-1B cap.
The recent OPT ruling has put many large tech companies on edge. However, after acknowledging that vacating the rule could harm the tech sector and force many foreign students to leave the U.S., Judge Huvelle has stayed the regulation until February 12, 2016 in order to give the Department of Homeland Security time to put the new rule through the proper comment process.
Still, the change in date brings little relief. While many are hopeful that new OPT regulations will happen by early spring, others remain concerned. The February 12th date is right in the throes of H-1B cap season, when many tech companies will need to file H-1B petitions on behalf of their OPT employees.
The Department of Homeland Security has yet to release updated OPT regulations after the White House said in November that the program would be extended as part of the president’s executive actions on immigration. Unfortunately, not acting upon new OPT regulations could have major consequences for U.S. companies, who would lose a program many rely on for skilled employees.
If you are interested in transitioning from F-1 Student status with Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization to H-1B nonimmigrant status please contact our office today to setup a consultation with one of our attorneys!