The lawsuit, filed by the Washington Alliance of Tech Workers (WashTech), argued that the programme was unlawful and was taking away jobs from American tech workers.
Under the OPT programme, foreign students can work for 12 months after graduating, with students graduating in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects getting an additional 24 months.
On Monday, Judge Reggie B Walton of the US district court of Columbia denied the plaintiffs motion for summary judgement.
The suit had been filed against the US Department of Homeland Security. In 2019, the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Information Technology Industry Council had intervened to protect the rights of international students, arguing that the OPT programme allowed American companies to hire skilled graduates, benefiting the US economy.
According to the 2020 Open Doors report, there were more than 223,500 students on an OPT in the US in 2019-20. There were a total of 1,075,496 international students in the country, of which 18% came from India. Several students on a STEM OPT go on to be hired on an H-1B visa by tech companies, which is partly why certain worker bodies have been opposed to the OPT programme.
WashTech had first filed a lawsuit challenging this programme back in 2014 which was later dismissed by a US district court in 2016. After that, another lawsuit had been filed in 2017 challenging the 2016 STEM OPT rule. More than 100 universities had then filed an amicus brief supporting the OPT programme.
A final written decision on the order will be issued within 60 days, said the court.