ICE Site Visits Target F1 Students Working on STEM OPT
ICE has started site visits for F1 STEM OPT students to validate their training program. Violation can result in OPT termination, Deportation or Arrest.
Trump government is leaving no stone un-turned in catching people who abuse US immigration system. ICE has been making headlines recently with going after un-document workers primarily from Mexico working at manufacturing plants.
Now, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has decided to question students and their work managers during new site visits. DHS’s ICE is investigating students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
It has been reported that ICE is contacting company’s HR asking for OPT student’s information aggressively starting July 2019 using their SEVIS record.
You should be ready to answer the questions posed in surprise ICE visit:
- ICE will validate your OPT training and if it is being carried out as per the plans mentioned in Form I-983.
- If there has been any changes in training plan and whether they have been reported on I-983 and updated in SEVIS by DSO.
- ICE will tour the workplace.
- Validate the skills and degree of the STEM OPT student match with the on-the-job training job requirements.
- STEM OPT trainee salary should be same as for other similar job’s salary in your company.
- Work hours should be same as other employees.
- If the OPT student is absent on day of ICE visit, you can clearly mention it and show the leave records. ICE may schedule a phone call later with the employee at their discretion.
- Check if the trainee is working at third party client work location.
Does ICE Inform About Site Visit in Advance?
By law, ICE is required to give 48 hours notice of their visit. Note that ICE visit is different than USCIS site visit.
ICE has contacted many employers and have asked for following information before their visit:
- ICE date of visit
- List of STEM OPT F-1 student names whose training has been selected for inspection
- Copy of each selected F-1 trainee’s Form I-983
- Training Plan for STEM OPT Students
- Company’s STEM OPT training program itinerary
Note that if there has been a complaint made by someone to ICE about violation of STEM OPT rules, ICE can raid without any notice.
F1 OPT Working at Third Party Client Location?
You are legally allowed to work at third party client location using STEP OPT. This is more common in case of IT consulting companies like TCS, Cognizant, Infosys etc.
It is possible that ICE makes a site visit on the end client work location. In this case, your manager from your direct employer like TCS or Cognizant should inform the client to be ready to answer the ICE questions.
It is important to note that the primary employer should have the control over hiring, firing and managing day to day work of the student. Basically, you need to prove that employer-employee relationship exists between employer and employee. The end client should not control the trainee’s work assignments.
What Action Can ICE Take?
ICE inspection should be taken very seriously as it can have very dire consequences:
- STEM OPT EAD can be terminated immediately if a violation is found.
- Risk of Arrest and Deportation – None has been reported though yet except the Day 1 CPT cases from Farmington university.
- ICE arrest and deportation record will be placed on your name and all future visa applications will be affected.
Can My Attorney Answer ICE Questions at Site Visit?
ICE visit can have serious consequences on employer’s future and hence many company’s prefer to engage their attorney if the ICE visit has been pre-planned.
ICE may or may not allow the attorney to answer their questions at the time of inspection.
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