In a decision that may reduce the appeal of the United States as a destination for international students, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security must curtail a popular program that allows foreign students and graduates to work while in the United States.
The program, known as Optional Practical Training, allows students to work a total of 12 months during and after their studies and is usually highlighted by colleges as part of their work with international students.
In 2008 the department extended the work period to 29 months for those earning degrees in certain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, citing a shortage of highly skilled workers. The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, a union, sued the department, saying the move threatened to take jobs away from Americans.
In her decision, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia invalidated the extension because, she said, the department had not followed proper rule-making procedures, such as providing a public-comment period.
But the judge stayed her decision in the case, Washington Alliance of Technology Workers v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, until February 2016, to avoid disrupting the lives of the thousands of foreign workers enrolled in the program and to give the government time to propose the extension again, this time properly.