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ICE Commences On-Site Inspections for STEM OPT Employment

September 26, 2019 Leave a comment

Our office has learned that ICE (http://www.ice.gov) has started to conduct on-site inspections for STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment.  The site visits are aimed to address how the salary of STEM OPT employees is determined, whether there is sufficient structure to provide supervision and training of the employee, and the nature of the employer/employee relationship at any third-party worksites.  According to https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/: Site visits will be limited to checking information related to student STEM OPT employment and ensuring that students and employers are engaged in work-based learning experiences that are consistent with the information supplied on the student’s Form I-983.

The length of the site visit appears to be about 1-2 hours but it could take up to five hours.  ICE normally gives two days’ notice via email to the STEM OPT employee’s manager/supervisor unless such visit is pursuant to a complaint in which case a notice would be unlikely.  It is important to note that in order to qualify for a STEM OPT extension, the student and the employer must complete Form I-983, providing specific information about the training program and agreeing to notify the Designated School Official (DSO) if there are any material changes to the training program. In addition, the Form I-983 must be regularly updated with the student’s progress in the training program.  However, the I-983 is not included with the application for STEM OPT, and as a result, it is generally not reviewed by USCIS or ICE at all (unless requested by USCIS via a Request for Evidence (RFE).

In light of the inspections, we remind you that employers as well as the students must carefully review the I-983 and instructions, and update it as needed.  Moreover, both the employer and the student should be familiar with the content of the I-983, and be prepared to describe the training opportunity to an ICE officer.  Even without a site visit, compliance is extremely important. The I-983 creates obligations certified by both the student and the employer. Violations could result in termination of student status, or impact future adjudications if USCIS or consular officers note discrepancies between the I-983 and online information or resumes submitted. There are also reports that the USCIS Vermont Service Center has started asking STEM OPT employers to email the I-983 plan as part of I-765 adjudication.  As with any site visit, front-line employees, such as security officers or administrative staff, should ask the ICE officer for a business card, and ask the officer to wait until a designated person at the worksite is called.  The ICE officer may want to tour the worksite, but best practice is to have the officer accompanied by the designated person on site.

 

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Federal Judge Issues Injunction Preventing Enforcement of USCIS’ F,J,M Unlawful Presence Policy

May 14, 2019 Leave a comment

As part of the lawsuit filed by Guilford College and other against Dept of Homeland Security (DHS), a Federal Judge in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on May 3, 2019 preventing the DHS from enforcing the USCIS’ August 8, 2018 policy memo that sought to change how days of unlawful presence are counted following a violation of F, M, or J nonimmigrant status.

The lawsuit filed late last year by Guilford College was supported by several other educational institutions that filed amicus curiae brief (friend of the court) with the Court.  The May 3, 2019 injunction states the following:

The Court finds that, under the circumstances of this case, the equities and public interest factors weigh in favor of granting injunctive relief. An injunction will prevent the harms outlined above for Plaintiffs, along with similarly situated individuals and institutions across the country. The record does not reflect any countervailing harm to the government in maintaining the status quo by returning, for the duration of this lawsuit, to a policy that it voluntarily followed for over twenty years. “

The May 2019 injunction order by the Court may be found here

Court Order May 2019

The preliminary injunction is a welcome news to thousands of foreign nationals that are currently in the U.S. in F, J, or M status.  We will post any updates on this matter as they become available.

Top 10 Countries with F-1 Students – ICE Data 2017

November 14, 2018 Leave a comment
  • CHINA 481,106
  • INDIA 249,763
  • SOUTH KOREA 95,701
  • SAUDI ARABIA 72,358
  • JAPAN 41,862
  • CANADA 41,527
  • VIETNAM 38,144
  • BRAZIL 34,171
  • TAIWAN 32,545
  • MEXICO 25,842
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