Recent reports indicate that ICE has started to conduct employer inspections regarding F-1 Students who have STEM Employment Authorization Documents. STEM employment authorization is offered to eligible students in F-1 status who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in an eligible STEM field (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). To qualify for a STEM Employment Authorization Document, the student and employer must complete Form I-983. This form details specific information about the student’s training program with the employer. However, the I-983 is not included with the application for the STEM Employment Authorization Document, so USCIS generally does not review it at all (unless requested via a Request for Evidence). Therefore, the site visits allow the government to ensure both the student and employer are complying with the training program as laid out on Form I-983.
The site visit will address how the salary of STEM Employment Authorization Document employees is determined, whether there is sufficient structure to provide supervision and training of the employee, and the nature of the employer/employee relationship at any third party worksites. Site visits should ensure that students and employers are engaged in work-based learning experiences that are consistent with the information supplied on the student’s Form I-983.
Based on recent reports of the few inspections conducted thus far, the length of the site visits has been in the range of 1-2 hours. The government has typically given two days’ notice by emailing the employee’s manager.
In light of the inspections, both the employer and the employee should carefully review the I-983, and update it as needed. Moreover, both the employer and the student should be familiar with the content of the I-983. They should be prepared to describe the training opportunity to an immigration officer. As we have often explained to our clients, even without a site visit, compliance is extremely important. The I-983 creates obligations certified by both the student and the employer. Violations could result in termination of immigration status. Violations could even affect future applications if USCIS or consular officers see discrepancies between the I-983 and their biographies on the internet or resumes.
As with any site visit, front line employees, such as security officers or administrative staff, should ask the immigration officer for a business card, and ask the officer to wait until the designated HR at the worksite is called. The immigration officer may want to tour the worksite, but best practice is to have the officer accompanied by the designated person on site. Furthermore, we ask that our current clients contact us immediately if an immigration officer requests an on-site visit.