USCIS Backtracks its STEM OPT Policy Regarding Third Party Placement
USCIS has issued the following press release on August 17th clarifying issues regarding third party placement for STEM OPT students:
“USCIS is updating the Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) page of our website to clarify the reporting responsibilities for participating in the STEM OPT program. Students and employers must report material changes to the Designated School Official (DSO) at the earliest opportunity by submitting a modified Form I-983. Employers must report the STEM OPT student’s termination of employment or departure to the DSO within five business days. As previously indicated on the webpage, students must report certain changes, such as changes to their employer’s name and address, to their DSO within 10 business days. Prompt reporting ensures that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is able to exercise effective oversight of the program.
Additionally, DHS is clarifying that STEM 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. DHS will review on a case-by-case basis whether the student will be a bona fide employee of the employer signing the Training Plan, and verify that the employer that signs the Training Plan is the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.”
Although restrictions still apply, it is a major shift from its previous stance on third party placement for STEM OPT students. Under the previous guidance provided on the USCIS website, the employer could not fulfill its training obligation by having the student perform work for the employer at a third party client location. This caused major issues for those students already engaged in this type of training arrangement, especially in light of the unlawful presence memo issued this year. With this updated guidance, those STEM OPT students engaged in training with an employer that takes place at a third party location can breathe a sigh of relief so long as the current training guidelines are followed.