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

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, FWD.us led more than 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 is available here.

FWD.us President Todd Schulte issued the following statement on OPT today as it heads to the District Of Columbia District Court:

“We are proud to partner with more than 60 of the nation’s leading businesses and associations to reaffirm the vital importance of the OPT program. The District Of Columbia District Court should reaffirm what other courts have repeatedly said: the OPT program and the STEM extension are entirely lawful, and that 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 elsewhere to compete against us. But our broken and outdated immigration system makes it incredibly difficult for them to stay in the U.S. after graduation, and for employers to hire them.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 American jobs, raise wages for native-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 District Court. WashTech had originally sued the government over 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.

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

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

Each year, more than 1 million international students attend American colleges and universities or pursue practical training with U.S. employers. International students contributed $41 billion to the economy last year, and supported more than 458,000 jobs across the country.

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