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USCIS Settles STEM OPT Processing Delay Lawsuit

Recent developments regarding the STEM OPT program may be of interest to TechServe Alliance members that utilize H-1B visa workers and STEM OPT graduate students to fill the technical talent gap.

Since spring/summer 2018, TechServe has been actively engaged in outreach on STEM OPT workers. In January 2018, the Trump Administration quietly implemented via a website post policy prohibiting staffing firms from placing STEM OPT workers at third party sites. Then, the previous Administration published a policy memorandum effective August 9, 2018 that targeted students awaiting visa approvals by changing the definition of unlawful presence to a status violation that would have resulted in a three-year bar from the US.

While the ban on staffing firms utilizing STEM OPT was rescinded in August 2018 and the August 2018 policy memorandum was enjoined by a federal court in North Carolina in May 2019, a backlog in USCIS processing continued to delay approvals of STEM OPT visas for graduate students—negatively impacting both students and companies employing them, including staffing firms.

A group of STEM OPT students filed suit in an Ohio federal court in February 2021 to contest the delays, and on July 23 the court issued a consent order outlining settlement with USCIS.

More information about the settlement terms is provided in this National Journal article, “Settlement Reached with USCIS in Class Action Suit Relating to OPT Processing Delays,” August 10, 2021.

Please do not hesitate to contact our Government Affairs Team for more information.

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