August 17, 2018
On August 17, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it updated the Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) page of its website relating to the reporting and training obligations of the STEM OPT program. Specifically, in its August 17, 2018 announcement, USCIS provides the following information regarding training experiences that take place at a site other than the employer’s principal place of business:
STEMP OPT participants may engage in a training experience that takes place at a site other than the employer’s principal place of business as long as all of the training obligations are met, including that the employer has and maintains a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student.
USCIS further states on its updated Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) page that in order to be eligible to employ a STEM OPT student:
an employer must have and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. . . . To establish a bona fide relationship, the employer may not be the student’s “employer” in name only, nor may the student work for the employer on a “volunteer” basis. Moreover, the employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student.
Per the August 17, 2018 update to the USCIS website, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will review on a case-by-case basis whether the student will be a bona fide employee of the employer signing the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT students, and verify that the employer that signs the Training Plan is the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.
This updated language provided by USCIS reverses prior declarations published on the USCIS website earlier this year which, among other things, sought to restrict the ability of STEM OPT participants to be placed at third-party worksites. See the April 2018 section below for more information about the agency’s previous statements on this topic. AILA will continue to update this practice alert as more information becomes available.
Source: AILA Doc. No. 18051134.