The Optional Training Program, allowing international students to gain work experience in their field after graduation, is safe for now after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the program last week.
OPT allows international students who graduate in the US to remain in the US to work for up to three years. Particularly for the rapidly growing population of post-graduate international STEM students, this program is one of the leading reasons they choose the US over other destinations.
Shorelight began working on this issue in 2018 and asked our partner universities to advocate for the program’s educational value. Several universities signed onto the amicus brief brought forward by the President’s Alliance for HE & Immigration. We are deeply grateful to all universities who defended the educational value of OPT by signing the amicus brief, which bolstered the case put before the appeals court.
Despite more than 60 years of precedent, this program remains vulnerable in an evolving political landscape with immigration issues as a primary national wedge issue. As long as OPT remains a regulatory creation without explicit legal protections, leaders in our sector must be vigilant in protecting the opportunity for students to gain experience in the American workforce.