US companies that employ foreign students in F-1 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Optional Practical Training (OPT) status should be aware of a recently announced practice by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to implement on-site visits at employers sites for the purpose of investigating the nature of the STEM employment and training.  We know that many of our clients take advantage of the STEM OPT Optional program. Through this program, an international student pursuing a degree in a STEM field can obtain employment authorization for a specific employer for up 24 months beyond the 12 months of employment permitted under “regular” OPT.  The STEM OPT employment is meant to provide training directly related to the student’s course of study in the United States.

Recently ICE has substantially increased its efforts and activities related to on-site visits for STEM OPT workers.  ICE has always had the authority to visit STEM OPT worksites, but it seems that recently the frequency of these visits has substantially increased.