ICE Starts Immigration Site Visits For Students On STEM OPT

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers could question international students and company managers during new site visits underway to investigate students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. This is the latest in a series of actions by the Trump administration aimed at companies, high-skilled professionals and international students.

“Though ICE has had the authority to make site visits since regulations governing the STEM OPT program were revised in May 2016, the agency has not begun to conduct inspections until now,” according to the Fragomen law firm. “The inspection may include individual interviews with company personnel, a review and discussion of the foreign national’s training plan and its implementation, and a review of his or her skills and degree in relation to the STEM degree. ICE may also request to view F-1 trainee workspaces or receive a tour of the premises.”

If one looks at the May 2016 STEM OPT regulation, it’s clear ICE can review a number of aspects of an international student’s work at an employer that might not have been subject to oversight in the past. This includes examining documentation to determine whether a student in STEM OPT status is being paid properly according to the regulation. The 2016 rule states: “To guard against adverse impacts on U.S. workers, the rule requires terms and conditions of a STEM practical training opportunity to be commensurate with those applicable to similarly situated U.S. workers.”

Another area that can be examined is whether the employer has established, in the eyes of ICE, a legitimate training program for the student. ‘The rule requires each STEM OPT student to prepare and execute with their prospective employer a formal training plan that identifies learning objectives and a plan for achieving those objectives,” according to the regulation. “The STEM OPT student and his or her employer must work together to finalize that plan.”

By Stuart Anderson for FORBES
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