What to Expect During a STEM OPT Site Visit – A Firsthand Look by Reddy & Neumann Attorneys
The Department of Homeland Security has been ramping up employer STEM OPT site visits over the last year. The purpose of the STEM OPT site visit is to ensure that STEM OPT program requirements are being met, including that the employer possesses and maintains the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences consistent with the student’s I–983, Training Plan.
All employers who receive a Notice of Site Visit (NSV) should understand the purpose of the visit and be prepared to answer questions regarding the company’s implementation of the STEM OPT training program. The F-1 student(s) listed in the NSV should also be prepared to answer questions regarding their practical training experience with the company.
STEM OPT Site Visit
STEM OPT site visits are conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Three officers were assigned to this particular site visit. Each officer identified themselves and displayed their badge. It was made clear that the visit was routine and that the student listed on the NSV was randomly selected.
As anticipated, the officers directed questions at both the employer and the STEM OPT student. The questioning lasted approximately 30 minutes (this time will vary depending on how may STEM OPT students are selected for the investigation). Thereafter, the officers requested to see the student’s workspace. At the conclusion of the investigation, the officers provided the employer with their business card.
- DHS verified whether the employer has sufficient resources and supervisory personnel to run the STEM OPT training program:
- How do you oversee and supervise the student(s) listed on the Notice of Site Visit?
- How often do you check in with the student to determine his or her progress?
- How are assignments and status updates provided?
- How many F-1 STEM OPT students does the company employ and who is the trainer and supervisor?
- Are the STEM OPT students located in the office, or are they offsite? If offsite, are the students located all over the U.S.?
- DHS verified that the STEM OPT student will not replace a full- or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker and that the terms and conditions of the STEM practical training opportunity – including duties, hours, and compensation – are commensurate with terms and conditions applicable to the employer’s similarly situated U.S. workers:
- What does the company’s recruitment process entail?
- What websites does the company use to recruit?
- Does the company’s recruitment process differ for U.S. workers versus F-1 STEM OPT students?
- Does compensation differ for U.S. workers versus non-U.S. workers?
- Additional Questions:
- When was the company established?
- How can the STEM OPT training program be improved?
F-1 STEM OPT Student
- DHS verified that the training opportunity will assist the student in attaining his or her training goals and that the student’s practical training opportunity is directly related to the student’s STEM degree:
- What qualifying degree was used to apply for your STEM extension? From which school?
- Can you briefly explain your position and your responsibilities?
- Do your job duties relate to your classes? How?
- DHS ensured all reporting requirements have been met:
- Are you in regular contact with your DSO? How often?
- Have you had any promotions or pay increases?
- Where is your work location?
- Have you worked at any other location with the company?
- Additional Questions:
- What was your original date of hire?
- Who is your supervisor?
- Have you participated in CPT?
- Who was your previous employer and where was the company located?
- Why did you stop working for your previous employer?
This particular case involved a student working in-house and not at a third-party site. If you receive a Notice of Site Visit for students working at third-party sites, you should be prepared to provide detailed information about how the student receives his or her practical training while off-site. The officers will likely ask questions about the employer-employee relationship in order to ensure the company is supervising and training the student(s) in accordance with STEM OPT program rules. Also be advised that ICE officers can conduct site visits at the client location as well.
If you have any questions regarding STEM OPT compliance or if you have received a Notice of Site Visit and have questions, you can set up a consultation with Krystal Alanis, Kristina Hernandez, or any of our Reddy & Neumann, P.C. attorneys at https://appointments.rnlawgroup.com/.
By: Krystal Alanis and Kristina Hernandez
Krystal Alanis is a Partner at Reddy & Neumann P.C. She acts as the Managing Attorney for the firm's PERM Labor Certification Department, where she oversees all EB-2 and EB-3 employment based green card matters. She also guides employers and individuals through the I-140 and Adjustment of Status process, assists clients with non-immigrant visa petitions (e.g. H-1B, TN, L-1, etc.), and advises her clients on I-9 compliance issues.
Kristina is an associate attorney at Reddy & Neumann, P.C. She was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 2011. Her practice includes representing companies and individuals with employment-based visa petitions and applications and advising clients regarding litigation options in federal court pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Kristina also guides employers to ensure compliance with all Form I-9 requirements by conducting internal audits of clients’ records, processes, and procedures.