By: Bruce Buchanan Sebelist Buchanan Law



In a below the radar move, the USCIS has updated its webpage for Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) to reflect a ban on the placement of STEM OPT workers at third-party client/customer sites. In doing so, the USCIS is relying upon a March 11, 2016 final rule amending regulations to expand OPT for students with U.S. degrees in STEM. The rule included new provisions to obtain a 24-month STEM OPT extension including, each STEM OPT student must prepare and execute with their prospective employer a formal training plan that identifies learning objectives and a plan for achieving training objectives, and the employer must agree to announced and unannounced Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) site visits to employer locations where STEM OPT students are employed.

Although the new rule does not prohibit placement of students at third-party worksites, the USCIS states the DHS/ICE site visit provision is the basis for the new prohibition. USCIS’s website 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. This means that ICE must always have access to a student’s worksite; if the student is sent to different worksite locations as part of the training opportunity, ICE must be able to access such worksite locations. For instance, the training experience may not take place at the place of business or worksite of the employer’s clients or customers because ICE would lack authority to visit such sites.


The change in the website did not provide any explanation as to why DHS/ICE lacks the authority to conduct a site visit on the premises of a third-party client if that client site had been clearly listed on an approved Form I-983 training application. The Form I-983 training application sets forth that DHS may, at its discretion, conduct a site visit. It would be reasonable to conclude that by listing a third-party client site as the student’s work location on the I-983, that the worksite is open to a site visit by ICE.

Why would the USCIS update its website with no prior notice and no opportunity for comment? Great question without an answer. Hopefully, DHS will provide an answer but don’t count on it. If they do, I will report in a future blog article.