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Judge Gives DHS More Time to Finalize and Implement STEM-OPT Extension

The Department of Homeland Security now has more time to finalize and start implementing new rules for extending OPT for graduates in a STEM field. We have the latest details!

If you’re currently on a STEM-OPT extension, you can breathe a little easier today.

According to an email sent to ISV Magazine from an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson:

“On Saturday, January 23, U.S. District Judge Huvelle granted DHS’ motion to have more time to publish and implement the STEM-OPT extension rule. According to the motion, DHS must publish the rule no later than 30 days after the initial publication date of February 12, and the rule must be implemented by May 10.”

So now instead of February 12, DHS now has until May 10 to finalize details and be able to fully implement the 24-month extension of STEM-OPT. Those currently on the old 17-month extension are permitted to continue working.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows international students on a F-1 visa to gain work experience by working in the United States after graduation. OPT is good for 12 months and previously anyone in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) field could apply for a 17-month extension.

Judgee Ellen Segal Huvelle. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Judgee Ellen Segal Huvelle. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wanted to replace the 17-month extension with a 24-month extension. However, the a union group called the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers brought a law suite against DHS saying DHS didn’t follow “required procedures” when they implemented the 17-month extension back in 2008. The judge agreed  and effectively removed the 17-month extension.

No one on the current STEM-OPT extension had to leave their jobs, but the judge originally gave DHS until February 12 to follow the required procedures to implement the 24-month extension. With more than 50,000 comments about the extension from the public, DHS made the case of needing to have more time to follow procedures as well as having enough time to hire and train personnel to handle the amount of STEM-OPT participants. And Judge Huvelle agreed, giving DHS until May 10 to finalize and publish the new 24-month extension rule.

According to DHS, there are approximately 23,000 STEM-OPT participants; 2,300 dependents of STEM-OPT participants, 8,000 pending applications for STEM OPT extensions; and 434,000 international students who might be eligible to apply for STEM-OPT authorizations. If the extension wouldn’t have been approved, utter chaos would have unleashed among workers, employers, and families.

You can count on ISV Magazine to bring you the latest updates for any immigration-related news.

Read more about the STEM-OPT Extension Proposal

court doc international student voice magazine

Download the entire court document on the judge’s official ruling, click–> Washtech Opinion-ECF No. 51 (1)

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