SFGATE: Foreign STEM students face uncertain futures in battle over work program

IRLI In The News

December 15, 2015

By Saurabh Datar

Thousands of international students studying in the United States are anxiously awaiting a forthcoming decision by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that could change regulations governing post-graduation work training programs.

While the department has proposed increasing the time for which these students can work on a student visa, an ongoing lawsuit that seeks to shorten that time period has left students uncertain of what the future holds.Every foreign student can work in the United States for one year on a student visa under the Optional Practical Training program, or OPT program. But for those with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, this period can be extended by 17 months without having to apply for a work visa.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, 34,000 foreign students were working on the so-called STEM extension as of Sept. 16.

But American technology workers believe the STEM extension disadvantages them. Last November, Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, an American technology workers’ union, filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, challenging the OPT program and STEM extension. This past fall, a federal court in Washington D.C. invalidated the STEM extensions, a move that could force these 34,000 students to leave the U.S. unless Homeland Security finalizes a new set of rules for the STEM extension by Feb. 12. … Read the full story by Saurabh Datar.

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