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Updates on the F-1 Optional Practical Training Lawsuit (WashTech vs. US DHS)

Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia allowed a lawsuit challenging DHS’s optional practical training (“OPT”) programs for F-1 international students to move forward. WashTech, a collective-bargaining organization representing STEM workers, alleges in their lawsuit that the OPT program harms its workers and that DHS does not have statutory ability to authorize optional practical training.

The Court made two key rulings in its recent decision. First, the Court held that the 2016 STEM OPT regulation issued by DHS removed the statute of limitations obstacle for WashTech’s ability to contest the original 1992 OPT rule, which effectively allows WashTech to challenge the validity of the entire OPT program. Second, the Court held that third party intervenors, including employer trade groups who would be economically harmed by the elimination of the OPT program, have standing to be part of the lawsuit and defend DHS’s rulemaking ability.

It is important to note that the Court has not yet ruled on the validity of the OPT and STEM OPT programs, and it is also unclear as to whether or not the current administration will defend the lawsuit. As this pending litigation has substantial detrimental consequences to every F-1 international student in the U.S., the universities that they attend, and the employers that hire them for practical training, MK will continue to monitor the litigation and provide updates as they occur.