A court decision on Wednesday, August 12, found that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made procedural errors in its processing of a rule that established the 17 month STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension, making that rule invalid. The court decided, however, that enforcing this decision immediately would cause substantial hardship for F-1 STEM students and would create a major labor disruption for technology companies, so the court has delayed the enforcement of this decision until February 12, 2016. This allows DHS to submit the OPT STEM rule for proper notice and comment period.
As this court decision has just been released, DHS has not been able to determine its impact on current and future OPT applications and has not communicated any changes to international student offices. While we understand that students are anxious to have details on the validity of any current OPT that has been granted and the possibility of receiving future STEM extensions, OIS cannot provide answers to these questions until we receive guidance from DHS.
What we can tell you now:
- It appears that this ruling will have no impact on the initial 12-month OPT for which all students, regardless of major, are eligible, but this has not been confirmed.
- Until we are informed otherwise by DHS, we will produce I-20 forms for STEM extensions. Unless we receive clarification of whether DHS will continue to accept applications for STEM extensions, it will be your decision whether to pay the application fee and file an application.
- Until otherwise informed, current EAD cards for STEM extensions should be considered valid.
- You should continue to make the required employment and address reports, and ensure that you do not exceed the unemployment limits of OPT.
We suggest students do not panic and await further information from DHS and/or OIS. Do not trust information that comes from any unofficial source, rely only on guidance from DHS/OIS. DHS may publish a new ruling on STEM OPT that satisfies the court’s objections and reinstates STEM OPT; if that happens we will notify students.