Latest On The Court Cases That Could Restrict Immigration, OPT And H-1B Spouses

Two important lawsuits may affect whether international students and the spouses of H-1B visa holders will continue to be permitted to work in the United States. Adding to the complication, the Trump administration is expected to issue regulations that would affect the ability of one or both groups to work.

The stakes in both cases are high. “If WashTech prevails, and OPT (Optional Practical Training for international students) is eliminated, the result would be catastrophic,” according to immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta. Addressing one of the arguments made against OPT, a recent National Foundation for American Policy study by economist Madeline Zavody concluded, “There is no evidence that foreign students participating in the OPT program reduce job opportunities for U.S. workers.”

On July 1, 2019, a judge issued a ruling in the Optional Practical Training court case, while the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could soon take action on a regulation to rescind work authorization for the spouses of H-1B visa holders (H-4 EADs or employment authorization documents). To better understand recent developments on these two issues, I interviewed William Stock, a founding member of Klasko Immigration Law Partners.

Stuart Anderson: What is Optional Practical Training?

William Stock: Optional Practical Training – known as OPT – is a period of work authorization that is part of the F-1 student visa for international students. It allows international students to gain practical experience in the field they are studying, whether through internships, summer employment, or employment after they graduate. Most students are limited to 12 months of OPT per academic level but students studying in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields can also obtain one 24-month extension of their OPT.

Anderson: What is the origin of the lawsuit to eliminate OPT?

Stock: A group (WashTech) claiming the OPT program harmed its members challenged the George W. Bush Administration’s original regulation from 2008, which created a 17-month “STEM extension” of OPT. In 2015, a judge agreed with the challenge on a narrow point of administrative law: The Bush administration’s regulation was passed in 2008 as an “interim” final rule – collecting public comments pro and con only after the regulation went into effect – and had never been issued as a “final” rule.

By Stuart Anderson for FORBES
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