Georgetown University recently applauded a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to uphold the federal government’s Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which has allowed international students with F-1 visas in the U.S. to work and acquire practical training after graduation.
“The opportunity to combine formal education with work experience is a magnet for talented students from abroad,” Thomas Banchoff, Georgetown’s vice president for global engagement, said in an amicus brief affirming the OPT program’s importance. “We were pleased to see the court sustain a 75-year-old precedent that allows our students to continue to apply their talents, their strengths, and their skills—an immeasurable benefit to this country and our world.”
Legal challenges to OPT
In 2016, the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech) filed a suit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its authority to grant work authorization to students with an F-1 visa. Organized by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration—of which Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia is a founding member—and NAFSA: Association of International Educators, Georgetown University and a coalition of colleges filed an amicus brief advocating for the continuation of the temporary employment program. The district court affirmed in 2021 that the DHS has the authority to oversee the program.
When WashTech appealed that ruling, the Presidents’ Alliance and NAFSA organized another amicus brief in 2021, to which Georgetown and 150 fellow universities contributed. On October 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the appeal in a 2:1 decision.
Benefits of the OPT program
The federal government has permitted international students with F-1 visas to work in the U.S. since the 1950s, and in the 2019-20 academic year alone, international students contributed nearly $38.7 billion to the U.S. economy, the Presidents’ Alliance and NAFSA state in their amicus brief.
“Even our best students can only learn so much from the classroom; they must then test and further these lessons in the real world,” Victor Cha, a professor and vice dean for faculty and graduate affairs in the Walsh School of Foreign Service, said in the brief. “The opportunity to undertake internships, employment, or research is critical to their development as future leaders in a more globalized world community for generations forward.”