When students receive an F-1 visa, they can sometimes receive a temporary work permit when they complete their studies. This is called the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, and it only allows work that is directly related to the student’s area of study. It is meant as an extension of the student’s learning.

Students can engage in up to 12 months of work through their OPT employment authorization, although this can sometimes be extended to two years. The work can be done before you complete your degree (pre-completion OPT) or afterwards (post-completion OPT). If you participate in pre-completion OPT, the time you spent will be subtracted from the total available after the completion of your degree.

Among the students who can work up to two years after receiving their degree include those whose degrees are in certain science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields.

Washtech, an advocacy group, opposes the OPT program

Now, however, an advocacy group working on behalf of high-tech workers has sued over the OPT program, claiming that it displaces American workers. The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, or Washtech, has asked a federal court of appeals to rule that the OPT program violates a federal law. That law sets limits on how many visas can be issued to foreign workers in a given year.

The Biden administration opposes the Washtech lawsuit. And, several business groups have joined the government in opposition to Washtech. They argue that the OPT program is a natural extension of a student’s education. They also argue that OPT allows American companies to hire entry-level workers from abroad when there are not enough U.S. workers with the proper skills.

Interestingly, a district court rejected this case last year. It ruled that Washtech had failed to show that any of its members had been injured or was about to be injured by the extension of the STEM OPT program. Furthermore, the judge found that student visas are subject to strict entry requirements and did not dictate the duration of a student’s overall stay in the U.S.

Washtech has asked for the case to be reinstated, arguing that the district court’s interpretation of the law made no sense and would allow the government to provide employment authorizations to anyone with any type of visa, including a tourist visa.

OPT likely to remain in place for now

If you have an F-1 student visa and are interested in working through the OPT program, be aware that the program is still in operation at this point. Contact Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience helping people come to the U.S. to live and work.