Kristina M. Hernandez
What is a STEM OPT Site Visit and How Can I Prepare?
Updated: Jul 24, 2020
With the increase of site visits recently, it is very important that companies employing STEM OPT students are in compliance with the I-983 Training Plan and are thoroughly prepared for a STEM OPT site visit. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has had the right to conduct worksite visits since the current regulations governing the STEM OPT extension were created in 2016 in order to ensure that employers and their STEM OPT students were in compliance with the STEM OPT program requirements.
Why is a STEM OPT site visit conducted?
The main reason these site visits are conducted is to make sure that employers are following the practical training plan as delineated in the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. The site visits are conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel. Additionally, DHS may confirm that the employer has sufficient resources and supervisory personnel to effectively maintain the STEM OPT program and may ask employers to provide evidence they used to assess wages of similarly situated U.S. workers.
Will I receive notice of the STEM OPT site visit before it happens?
Usually DHS will provide 48 hours’ advance notice. However, this may not always be the case. For example, if there has been evidence of noncompliance of the program that happened to trigger the site visit then advance notice does not have to be provided. The Notice of Site Visit is usually provided via e-mail to the employer which will contain the date of the visit and will also request certain documentation related to STEM OPT students. Further, the Notice may contain additional questions, such as:
· What is the current worksite address for the F-1 nonimmigrant student(s) listed above?
· How many total full-time employees does your company currently have?
· How many F-1 nonimmigrants students on STEM OPT does your company currently employ? Please provide the names of all F-1 nonimmigrant students on STEM OPT currently employed by your company.
· Does your company remove the FICA tax rate from your STEM OPT employees’ wages?
· Your company’s E-Verify number.
How can I prepare for a STEM OPT site visit?
1. Review the Form I-983 Training Plan for all STEM OPT students, and pay close attention to those Form I-983 Training Plans to the STEM OPT students that were listed in the Notice of Site Visit. The Form I-983 Training Plan should contain an accurate description of the training opportunity provided to the student and the training and supervision of the student should accurately reflect what is designated in the Training Plan.
2. Designate appropriate individuals within the company to act as a contact point for ICE officers once they arrive at the company’s location. The designated individuals will be present with ICE throughout the entirety of the site visit and take notes on what occurs during the site visit.
3. Notify your front desk and security personnel of the site visit who should then be able to direct the ICE officers to designated points of contact within the company. The front desk personnel should also ask the ICE officers for their business card and identification.
The ICE officers will most likely want to speak to the managers or supervisors of the STEM OPT students, and may even ask to speak directly to the students. Therefore, the managers and supervisors of the students should review the information provided in each student’s Form I-983. The managers, supervisors, and students should be prepared to answer questions about the training and supervision as stated in the Form I-983 Training Plan.