DHS reformulated the F-1 STEM optional practical training (OPT) benefit, with the publication of the "24-month STEM OPT Rule" [81 FR 13039] that became effective on May 10, 2016. The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers union (WashTech) filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against both the 2016 24-month STEM OPT rule and the standard 12-month post-completion OPT rule, raising many of the same substantive issues WashTech had brought up in the suit they filed against the 2008 17-month STEM OPT rule. A key component of WashTech's case is its assertion that DHS does not have the statutory authority to create or maintain any kind of post-completion OPT. This page summarizes the progress of this litigation.

Updates

Go to www.nafsa.org/stemoptrule for a summary of the 2016 STEM OPT rule.

NAFSA Engagement

  • Amicus Brief. The Presidents’ Alliance for Higher Education and Immigration and NAFSA: Association of International Educators are working to coordinate an amicus brief for higher education institutions to join, to be filed with the Court in support of OPT. The brief would outline the importance of OPT to institutions, their students, and higher education in this country, highlighting the value of OPT as an important educational component to a student’s program of study, as a key complement to the classroom experience, and as supplemental training and experiential learning. The deadline to join this amicus brief is October 11, 2019.
  • Government Connection Event. On Tuesday, September 3, 2019 3:00-4:00 eastern, NAFSA will host a live online discussion on the implications of the current legal challenge to OPT, featuring attorneys Dan Berger (Curran, Berger & Kludt) and Steve Yale-Loehr (of counsel, Miller Mayer and professor of immigration law practice Cornell Law School). It is free of charge, but you must register to join.

WashTech Lawsuit Updates

  • In an order resulting from the August 6, 2019 status conference, the Court set a deadline of October 25, 2019 for receiving amicus briefs and the intervening parties' cross-motion for summary judgment and opposition to WashTech's motion for summary judgement, as well deadlines for several other matters.
  • The Court held a status conference on August 6, 2019.
  • On July 22, 2019, the Government answered the WashTech Complaint, and asked the Court to dismiss the case.
  • On July 15, 2019, interventing parties answered the WashTech Complaint.
  • On July 11, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia set a July 22, 2019 deadline to receive the Government's answer the WashTech Complaint.
  • In a July 1, 2019 decision, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:
    • Found that DHS's 2016 STEM OPT rulemaking also had the legal effect of reopening the legacy INS 12-month post-completion OPT regulation that had been finalized in 1992. This means that the Court no longer considers a challenge to DHS's statutory authority to implement standard post-completion OPT to be outside the statute of limitations, and that the WashTech plaintiffs can challenge DHS's underlying statutory authority to establish not only STEM OPT but standard post-completion OPT as well. In its decision, the Court did not determine that DHS does not have such authority, but rather that it will consider the parties' arguments for and against that authority. NAFSA is engaged on the issue with other higher education and industry groups.
    • Granted the motion to intervene as defendants filed by the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chambers of Commerce of the United States of America, and the Information Technology Industry Council.
  • In a June 8, 2018 decision on WashTech's appeal of the district court's dismissal of its claims, the appeals court reversed the district court's dismissal of Count II of WashTech's complaint, which asserted that DHS did not have the statutory authority to promulgate the 2016 STEM OPT rule. The appeals court did not render an opinion on the issue itself, but rather found that the basis for the district court's dismissal of that claim was insufficient. And so, the appeals court remanded that issue back to the district court, which must now revisit the assertion that DHS lacks the statutory authority to establish any optional practical training benefit beyond the standard 12-month benefit.
  • WashTech appealed the district court's April 19, 2017 dismissal of its claims, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (appeals court).
  • On April 19, 2017, the Washington D.C. District Court dismissed WashTech's June 17, 2016 suit against regular and 24-month STEM OPT. In its final order and opinion dismissing the case, the Court found that:
    • WashTech did not have standing to sue on their claim against the 1992 regular 12-month OPT rule,
    • WashTech did have standing to sue on their claim against the 2016 24-month STEM OPT rule, but,
    • WashTech failed to adequately state a claim on which relief could be granted against the 2016 24-month STEM OPT rule
     
  • On March 30, 2017, the Washington D.C. District Court issued an order "granting in part and denying in part" the Government's August 29, 2016 Motion to Dismiss WashTech's suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. The Court stated in its order that it will set forth its reasons in a Memorandum Opinion "to be issued by the Court within the next thirty days, absent extraordinary circumstances." The Court will issue a final Order at the same time it issues its Memorandum Opinion. No further details regarding the order are available.
  • On March 6, 2017, the status conference on WashTech's June 17, 2016 lawsuit was rescheduled for April 10, 2017. The status conference was originally scheduled for December 12, 2016, was then delayed until March 9, 2017, and now has been further continued until April 10, 2017, "In light of the Court still seeking to resolve the pending motion in this case."
  • Between August 29, 2016 to September 16, 2016, the parties to WashTech's June 17, 2016 lawsuit filed the following: On August 29, 2016, DHS filed a motion to dismiss WashTech's suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim (read DHS' memorandum in support of their motion); On September 9, 2016, WashTech filed a response to DHS' motion (read WashTech's reponse); on September 16, 2016, DHS filed a response to WashTech's response (read DHS' response).
  • On August 8, 2016, the U.S. District Court judge that heard WashTech's original complaint filed against the 2008 17-month STEM OPT rule (the rule that was vacated effective May 10, 2016), granted in part a WashTech motion for attorney fees from that litigation. WashTech had asked for $465,002.62 from DHS, the court awarded them $42,239.59. Read the court's opinion.
  • On June 17, 2016, WashTech filed a new lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (district court), this time against the 2016 STEM OPT rule. The new filing, which was expected by DHS, raises many of the same substantive issues brought up in the original lawsuit, but now in the context of the 2016 STEM OPT rule rather than the 2008 rule. It also raises new procedural claims. Read WashTech's complaint.
  • On May 13, 2016, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed as moot WashTech's appeal of the District Court's August, 2015 decision on the 2008 STEM OPT rule. And so that suit, originally filed in 2014, came to a close except for a subsequent determination of attorney fees.