A message issued by the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) on Jan. 4 reminded educational institutions of their compliance obligations regarding foreign students participating in Optional Practical Training (OPT). The message also warned that “a significant number of SEVIS records have not been properly maintained,” leading to recent enforcement actions.

Key Points:

  • Designated School Officials (DSOs) must keep SEVIS records up to date for all students during their entire OPT period, including any changes to personal or employment status.
  • Foreign students in OPT programs after completing their degrees are allowed 90 days of unemployment, or 150 days if in a 24-month OPT-STEM extension program.
  • Students who fail to report employment changes could be in a violation of their nonimmigrant status and potentially subject to deportation, and schools that fail to update SEVIS records could be subject to suspension or termination of their certification by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program.

Additional Information: The notice is another indication that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is focused on enforcement of OPT programs. The agency announced on Jan. 15 it is creating a full-time OPT Employment Compliance Unit dedicated to monitoring and investigating employer and student compliance with OPT programs.

BAL Analysis: DSOs should ensure that they are in compliance with record-keeping and SEVIS update requirements for all students participating in OPT programs.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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