USCIS Issues Changes to Off-Site Placement of STEM OPT F-1 Visa Holders

Published: 05/09/2018


The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently made subtle changes to its eligibility definitions for companies seeking to employ STEM OPT F-1 visa holders.  The subtle changes have major implications for employers, including staffing companies and companies that place employees off-site.

F-1 students who have earned degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) may be eligible for a 24-month employment authorization extension pursuant to Optional Practice Training (OPT).  USCIS was formerly silent on whether eligible students could be placed off-site during employment, but permitted the placement as long as the employer showed that it would oversee and supervise the student-employee in its off-site training, among other requirements.  However, USCIS’s recent change to the STEM OPT extension eligibility now explicitly prohibits assigning the student-employee to work off-site for a third party, even if the third-party is the employer’s customer or client. USCIS now states “the training experience must take place on-site at the employer’s place of business or worksite(s) to which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has authority to conduct employer site visits to ensure that the employer is meeting program requirements . . . the training experience may not take place at the place of business or worksite of the employer’s clients or customers . . .”

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