U.S. Schools Stand Up for Work Visas

More than 100 U.S. universities defend OPT work visas for international students.

U.S. Schools Stand Up for Work Visas

Arthur M. Blank Center at Babson College, one of 118 signatories to a recent amicus brief. (Photo By Daderot/CC-By-SA-3.0.)


A GROUP OF 118 colleges and universities are calling on the U.S. government to retain an immigration program known as Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT allows international students studying in the U.S. to stay in the country up to 36 months after they graduate, as long as they obtain full-time jobs directly related to their course of study. On November 21, 2019, these institutions collectively filed an amicus brief—a legal document filed in a case before an appellate court by persons or groups who are not party to that case, but who have a strong interest in its outcome.

The nonpartisan Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and the nonprofit NAFSA: The Association of International Educators coordinated the brief as part of litigation currently before the court by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers Union (Washtech). Washtech, which represents U.S. workers in STEM fields, brought its lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The union contends that DHS does not have the authority to allow “nonimmigrant aliens” with temporary visa status—such as international students—to remain in the country to work post-graduation.

From 2004 to 2016, DHS approved OPT permits for approximately 1.5 million international students graduating from U.S. higher education institutions, according to the Pew Research Center. Fifty-three percent of these graduates earned degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

The amicus brief defends the OPT program, emphasizing that the ability to “provide international students with the opportunities facilitated by OPT gives American institutions of higher education an edge in an increasingly competitive global education market.”

Among the schools listed in the filing is Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. In addition to helping U.S. schools compete in the global market, OPT also helps employers, who benefit from the contributions of international students, says Amir Reza, dean of the Babson Academy for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurial Learning, a unit within the college. “We see the importance of OPT for our students’ learning and for future employers looking for top talent from the U.S. and abroad.”

To learn more, read the brief from the President's Immigration Alliance.