U.S. employers are experiencing site visits by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to assess compliance with STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) regulations as they pertain to F-1 trainee employees. These visits are unprecedented, as ICE has not previously conducted on-site inspections relating to STEM OPT employment. Employers of F-1 student trainees working pursuant to STEM OPT need to be aware of possible site visits from ICE and take steps now regarding how to prepare in the event of a site visit.
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It has come to our attention that U.S. employers are reporting site visits by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to assess compliance with STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) regulations as they pertain to F-1 trainee employees. These visits are unprecedented, as ICE has not previously conducted on-site inspections relating to STEM OPT employment.
Employers of F-1 student trainees working pursuant to STEM OPT need to be aware of possible site visits from ICE and take steps now regarding how to prepare in the event of a site visit.
Since site visits on STEM OPT employment is a new government initiative, this action by ICE could catch many U.S. employers off-guard. ICE inspections may occur at the employer’s offices and any other locations where F-1 STEM OPT trainees are assigned to work, including third-party client sites.
If ICE finds that an employer is out of compliance with STEM OPT requirements, the agency may terminate STEM OPT employment authorization. Also, ICE may take action on any other immigration-related infractions that come to light during a site visit relating to STEM OPT. This could create employment interruption and hardship for employers and these trainees.
Site inspections by ICE generally involve a review of a STEM OPT trainee’s work schedule, work-space, assigned duties, salary, skills in relation to her/his STEM degree, and progress against her/his training plan. If the F-1 STEM OPT trainee is working off-site, then ICE will likely wish to confirm that the employer is still complying with STEM OPT requirements related to supervision and control over the F-1 trainee’s day-to-day work.
ICE normally provides an employer with 48 hours’ notice via email prior to a site inspection; however, the agency is not required to provide any notice when initiating a site visit in response to a complaint or evidence of failure to adhere to STEM OPT requirements.
It is advisable for employers to have a plan in place to handle a site visit. Reception staff should be instructed to request identification of any persons claiming to be acting on behalf of the government, including ICE agents. In addition, reception staff should contact the employer representative(s) scheduled to meet with ICE. The employer representative(s) may ask ICE for permission to have immigration counsel participate in the site visit, either in person or by phone.
KPMG Law LLP in Canada will continue to monitor updates related to STEM OPT site inspections and will endeavor to keep GMS Flash Alert readers informed as developments occur.
1 For government information on STEM OPT and F-1 students, see the USCIS webpage “Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students”.
* Please note that KPMG LLP (U.S.) does not provide any immigration services or legal services. However, KPMG Law LLP in Canada can assist clients with U.S. immigration matters.
The information contained in this newsletter was submitted by the KPMG International member firm in Canada.
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