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Update On OPT STEM Extension Rule

on Thursday, 20 August 2015 in Labor & Employment Law Update: Sarah M. Huyck, Editor

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a temporary employment available to international students enrolled in college or advanced studies at U.S. educational institutions. Under the OPT program, an international student may qualify to receive up to 12 months of practical training before or after completion of his or her studies.

In 2008, the OPT program was extended for an additional 17 months for international graduates from U.S. universities with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees. Thus, the STEM graduates may qualify for up to 29 months of OPT employment before changing to a different status or departing from the United States.

The success of this increasingly popular program was put in jeopardy, however, with a federal court’s decision from August 12, 2015. The court ruled that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) exceeded its statutory authority in implementing the STEM extension rule. According to the court, the government erred in using the emergency exception to the regular implementation procedure without sufficient justification. The court issued an order to cancel the program but postponed its effect until February 12, 2016.

Please note that the court’s decision DOES NOT:

  • affect employment authorizations for current OPT STEM extension holders; or
  • preclude qualifying STEM graduates from obtaining OPT STEM extensions before February 12, 2016.

The court allowed the government sufficient time to re-implement the OPT STEM extension rule under proper procedure. Therefore, the OPT STEM extension program will not be invalidated on February 13, 2016, unless the DHS fails to comply with the court order. We will continue to inform you on this important development.

Some New Lawful Permanent Resident Cards May Not Contain A “Signature”

An employer’s authorized representatives responsible for the I-9 process may now be presented with lawful permanent resident cards without an actual signature. Please note that those cards are valid documents and must be accepted for I-9 verification purposes.

Dmitri Sharko

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