ICE Has Initiated On Site Visits To Employers Of F1 STEM OPT

ICE Begins Conducting STEM OPT Site Visits

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has reportedly started to conduct on-site inspections of companies that employ foreign students in F-1 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Optional Practical Training (OPT).

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) page on employer site visits, the site visits are to ensure that the students are receiving structured and guided work-based learning experiences, to reduce potential abuses of the STEM OPT extension, and to verify the information reported on the student’s Form I-983 (Training Plan for STEM OPT Students).

ICE has had the authority to make site visits since the regulations governing the STEM OPT program was revised in May 2016. The rule was amended to improve and increase oversight over the STEM OPT program by “requiring the implementation of formal training plans by employers, adding wage and other protections for STEM OPT students and U.S. workers, and allowing extensions only to students with degrees from accredited schools.”

DHS will provide at least 48 hours of notice in advance of any visit to the employer, unless the visit is triggered by a complaint or evidence of noncompliance with the STEM OPT regulations. However, DHS does not have to provide notice in the event of a complaint or other evidence on noncompliance triggers the site visit.

Companies that employ international students on STEM OPT should plan for a potential site visit, and establish clear internal policies and procedures for such visits.

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