FWD.us, U.S. Business Community File Amicus Brief in Support of Optional Practical Training (OPT)

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, FWD.us led 60 businesses, trade associations, and organizations in filing an amicus brief in support of Optional Practical Training (OPT), a program that allows international students to gain employment and vital hands-on training in their field of study after graduating from U.S. colleges and universities. International students are vital to creating and supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs, and boosting the American economy. The brief, including the list of signatories, is available here.

FWD.us President Todd Schulte issued the following statement on OPT as it heads to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals:

“We are proud to be among 60 of the nation’s leading businesses and associations reaffirming the vital importance of the OPT program. We hope that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will affirm what other courts, including the District of Columbia District Court, have repeatedly said: the OPT program and the STEM extension are entirely lawful, and they are vital to the American economy.

“Graduates of American colleges and universities should be able to stay in the United States to develop and contribute their skills here, rather than taking them to other countries to compete against us. But our outdated immigration system makes it incredibly difficult for them to stay in the U.S. after graduation, and for employers to hire them.

“The OPT program is critical to retaining top talent and keeping the U.S. globally competitive. Ensuring that talented international graduates can put their U.S. education to use right here will help to create new jobs, raise wages for U.S.-born workers, and contribute enormously to growing our economy.”

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a temporary employment program for international students who have graduated from U.S. colleges and universities. If approved for OPT, international students can work lawfully in the United States in their field of study for up to 12 months, plus an additional 24 months if they have a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).

Washington Alliance of Technology Workers vs. DHS is currently being heard in the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (“WashTech”) had originally sued the federal government in an attempt to end OPT in 2014, but the court upheld the legality of OPT. WashTech mounted a new challenge in 2016, which was dismissed by the District of Columbia District Court in 2017, finding that WashTech did not have standing or a claim on which relief could be granted. WashTech appealed, and the case was sent back to the District Court to be heard in full. In 2020, the judge once again ruled in favor of the government and OPT. In response, WashTech has filed yet another appeal.

FWD.us is proud to bring together 60 national businesses, associations, and organizations of all sizes across industries to file an amicus brief reaffirming the vital importance of the OPT program to U.S. employers, international students, and the business community as a whole.

As the amicus brief details, OPT is critical for providing international students and graduates valuable hands-on training and experience working in the U.S. in their field of expertise. OPT also helps strengthen the skilled workforce for American businesses of all sizes and in all industries, complementing employers’ investments in domestic STEM education and worker retraining. This pool of trained, U.S.-educated professionals is particularly crucial for industries that rely on a specialized STEM skill set and which continuously face a shortage of available workers.

Each year, more than 1 million international students attend U.S. colleges and universities or pursue practical training with U.S. employers. International students contributed $38.7 billion and supported 415,996 jobs in the U.S. economy during the 2019-2020 academic year.

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