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OPT Extension for STEM Students Could be in Jeopardy

Back in 2008, Optional Practical Training (OPT) was extended from 12 to 29 months for STEM students but a ruling by a court last week puts this extension in jeopardy. OTP is available to students on F-1 visas who have graduated or have been working towards a degree for nine months. OPT allows students to gain a practical working experience that is related to their field of study. The OPT extension is only for students in STEM (science, technology, engineering or math).


Last week a court ruled that this extension was invalid because the governmentfailed to seek public comment before extending the OPT period. The court decidednot to outright declare the OPT extension invalid but instead gave the governmentsix months to cure the problem and submit the extension for public comment.

Fortunately this means the problem could be fixed in six months, but if the courtisn’t satisfied upon further review it could mean that students working on OPT maybe forced to terminate their employment and leave the US.

Although the OPT extension program requires public comment as of now, theextension period is still valid up until February 12, 2016, the court given expirationdate. Also, F-1 students may still apply for an OPT extension and be granted theextension until the six months has run.

The OPT extension is important to many students as US schools enrolls hundreds of thousands of international students each year. According to the Institute of International Education over 800,000 international students were enrolled during the 2013-2014 school year. This represents an 8% growth from the previous year and puts international student enrollment at an all time high. The highest percentage of international students is from China, and the second highest percentage is from India.

Ending the OPT extension program would be a disservice to the many students who benefit from the program and the US economy that benefits from the skills brought into the workplace. OPT allows foreign students to exercise and hone the skills learned in school in a practical workplace environment. The US economy benefits by bringing in specialized skills to the workplace and bettering US companies.

The most popular majors among international students are engineering, math,computer science and business. Foreign students are studying areas that US companies need to advance. Engineering and computer skills bring innovation,product creation and efficiency into the workplace. The OPT extension program allows these skilled graduates to better US companies and create successful products and which can lead to job creation and high sales. As the program stands it ensures graduates can bring these important skills into the workplace, hopefully foreign students and the US can continue to benefit from this program.

Any questions about OPT extension program or F-1 student visas can be answeredby an immigration attorney. Contact the Law Office of Sweta Khandelwal to discuss OPT extension, F-1 visas or any other immigration issue. Attorney Khandelwal is animmigration attorney located in the Silicon Valley.

Cited Sources:

Federal Court Rules on OPT Extension, August 14, 2015, The National Law Review

Institute of International Education, 2015


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F-1 Student Visa Options After Graduation

Many universities are home to foreign students from all over the world. These foreign students spend four years earning a phenomenal degree from American universities while also building friends and network connections. However, for many of these students are forced to leave the United States because they haven’t secured proper post-graduate visas. A F-1 student visa, which is what most if not all of these students are covered under, is temporary and only allows a person to stay in the United States as long as they are a student. In this article, we will explore what kind of options are available to F-1 visa holding foreign students after graduation.

F-1 -> OPT

Although there is no such thing as an “OPT visa”, a student may extend their F-1 status if they can secure optional practical training (OPT). There is a maximum of a single 12 month extension and starts upon graduation or completion of course of study. This is mostly handled through the F-1 student’s school’s international students department.

F-1 -> H-3

For a student who doesn’t want to stay in the United States for an extended period of time but still wants to pursue further training may find the H-3 visa appropriate. The H-3 visa is for “trainees” who do not have the appropriate education or work experience for a particular position, but would like to be trained to do so. An H-3 visa seeker can stay for two years, but cannot transfer to H-1B or L-1 visa status and must intend to transfer the knowledge and training that they receive back to their home country.

F-1 -> H-1B

An H-1B visa covers the typical scenario when a student is able to secure a position after graduation. An H-1B visa would allow the student to work without the one year restriction the OPT has. However, H-1B visas are notoriously difficult to secure, as we have covered before. Students who are looking for a H-1B visa to cover them this fall should speak to an attorney soon, as the filing for H-1B visas starts on April 1, 2014 and last year the quota filled up in only four days.

F-1 -> R-1

F-1 students may also pursue an R-1 visa if their post-graduation work is religious in nature. The F-1 student must show that they were a member for at least 2 years preceding the application. The organization itself must also prove that it has tax exempt status as a religious organization. Site visits are also known to occur to verify the religious nature of the organization and the work of the R-1 visa seeker.

F-1 -> Green Card

There are five employment based green card categories and five family based green card categories. Each one requires different forms of proof, different requirements to satisfy, and is for different kinds of people. Students should speak to an immigration attorney to see which green card option is the most appropriate for them.

There are many nonimmigrant visa options we did not cover in this article, including E-1/E-2 visas, L-1, B, J-1, Q, and others. The options are wide and varied, and sometimes require coordination with the student’s school, potential employer, and an immigration attorney. Students should start exploring their options early, especially if they expect to graduate this semester.

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Legal Issue Series – What to do about Delayed OPT Extensions

For many foreign students on F-1 visas, the practical American training they receive is just as important as their education. To this end, many F-1 students seek “OPT” or Optional Practical Training extensions so that they can stay longer to receive practical training. These OPT extensions are valuable because it allows for additional time to stay in the United States, hands-on practical training, and often time to seek other immigration options as the applicant’s final school year winds down. This article will look at some of the issues someone could face while seeking an OPT extension.

One such issue is when an OPT extension application has been pending with USCIS for more than 90 days. This can be a difficult time for a foreign student who is essentially in immigration limbo as they await such a prolonged and delayed adjudication of their OPT extension. Without such an extension, they usually cannot work and must have to immediately return to their home country if their application is denied. Should someone face a USCIS Form I-765 application that has been pending more than 90 days, they should either call 1-800-375-5283 to request an expedited I-765 adjudication because it is outside normal processing times. The other option is to make the same request in an in-person InfoPass appointment at

The other issue is the limited period one can stay unemployed under an OPT extension. The number of maximum days allowed to be unemployed varies depending on the type of industry the foreign student is working in and when the unemployment occurs. Furthermore, not only do days not formally being employed count towards the total number of days allowed to be unemployment, but so will days spent employed in a non-qualifying job. However, time spent before the issuance of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card does not count towards this cap. Foreign students should seek advice from their university or an immigration attorney to make sure their employment qualifies and to navigate any unemployment issues.

Foreign students may find themselves in particularly difficult situations because of the need to coordinate between universities, private immigration attorneys, and their personal lives. Contact our office today if you have any questions regarding your foreign student visa or other immigration issues.

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