U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) has recently increased site visits for employers who employ F-1 students under STEM OPT (short for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics Optional Practical Training) work authorization. While ICE has had this authority since the STEM regulations were passed in 2016, the agency only recently started conducting site visits to ensure that employers and F-1 students remain in compliance with the regulations governing F-1 STEM OPT work authorization.
What Is STEM OPT?
STEM OPT allows eligible F-1 visa students with STEM degrees from accredited U.S. colleges or universities to apply for an additional 24 months of Occupational Practical Training. This is in addition to the initial, one-year post-completion OPT granted to all non-STEM-degree F-1 students. In addition to the STEM degree requirements, the F-1 visa student must secure employment with a bona fide employer, work a minimum of 20 hours per week for that employer, and the employer must provide a formal, practical training and learning program within the STEM field which is related to the F-1 student’s degree. Details of the training program are outlined by the employer on Form I-983, which is submitted to and approved by the Designated School Official at the F-1 student’s academic institution.
California Governor Jerry Brown has signed the Immigrant Worker Protection Act (AB 450), which restricts public and private employers in California from admitting immigration inspectors to the workplace without a judicial warrant. It also requires employers to notify their employees before and after certain immigration inspections take place. The new law, which adds Sections 7285.1, 7285.2, and 7285.3 to the California Government Code, and Sections 90.2 and 1019.2 to the California Labor Code, will take effect on January 1, 2018.
In conflict with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) plans to increase enforcement actions under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which includes criminal and civil penalties for employers who knowingly employ unauthorized workers; the new California law seeks to protect foreign workers from unfair immigration-related practices, potentially causing problems for employers who must comply with federal and state laws. (more…)