ICE Begins Targeting International STEM OPT Students on F1 Visa

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have always been conducting announced and unannounced site visits at employers who predominantly employ foreign workers. International students on US F1 student visas who are eligible for full-time employment (and have to eventually change their visa from F1 to H1B) can train in their fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with organizations under Optional Practical Training (OPT) for 12 cumulative months. ICE has begun conducting site visits to these employers and scrutinizing their adherence to regulations.

How Can STEM Students on F1 Visas Prepare for ICE Site Visits?

There are several things you can do to prepare for the site visit to ensure that it goes smoothly. ICE officers usually give a 48-hour notice to the employer before making a site visit. Although not necessarily always, they may also request a list of documents that can be prepared beforehand. The F1 students can prepare in the following way, if an ICE officer decides to pay their employer a visit –

  • Ensure the employer you have applied to for OPT is complying with all STEM OPT regulations.
  • You understand and fill out the Form I-983 fully knowing that DHS’ authority to deny, revoke, or terminate the STEM OPT if they feel it is not in compliance with the law. Carry a copy of this Form at all times.
  • Be well informed about all your duties, qualifications, hours, and compensation.
  • If there have been any material changes made to your training plans, any concerns about employer noncompliance, or even a change of employer, you are obligated to notify your designated student officers in written form.
  • Be prepared to answer all questions regarding your role within the organization and the project assigned to you.
  • Be able to define the relationship between your role and your degree program.
  • Prepare a detailed summary of how you qualify for the role assigned to you during OPT
  • Lastly, document your interaction with an ICE officer in detail.

If you are on the verge of completing your coursework in the US and looking to convert your OPT to H1B, here’s what you need to know