Sixty 60 U.S. companies and trade organizations have signed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to protect Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students.

OPT allows F-1 students who graduate from a U.S. university to work for 12 months in their field of study and for an additional 24 months if they have a degree in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). Litigation challenging the OPT program has been ongoing since 2014, and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (“WashTech”), are now appealing a district court’s ruling that OPT is lawful.

In their brief, the companies said that employers “consistently struggle to fill STEM jobs and often face significant and persistent vacancies” in STEM positions.

“The OPT and STEM OPT programs are critical to addressing that deficit,” the brief says. “As (we) have seen firsthand, these essential programs mitigate the immediate shortfall of STEM-skilled individuals, while ameliorating that problem in the long term by educating and training the next generation of STEM workers.”

BAL Analysis: Supporters of the OPT programs won a significant legal victory in November, when a judge concluded that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has legal authority to allow foreign students to work in the U.S. after graduation under the programs. WashTech is appealing the ruling, and some of the U.S.’s largest and most powerful companies are now urging the circuit court to uphold the program’s legality. BAL will continue to follow the litigation and will provide updates on important developments relating to OPT.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact