Foreign students are drawing increased scrutiny from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding their use of two programs, Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allow them to work legally for employers in approved training programs.

Key points: 

  • A criminal indictment has revealed that ICE set up a fake university that purported to offer degrees in STEM fields but in fact did not offer any coursework. The phony school provided the enrollment evidence that students needed to allow them to work under the CPT or OPT programs, thus ensnaring hundreds of foreign students by working in violation of the foreign student employment rules.
  • USCIS has also increased review by issuing more requests for evidence in cases where students are changing status from F-1 to H-1B and requiring students to meticulously demonstrate that they have maintained status during curricular and optional practical training.
  • ICE is stepping up oversight of work authorization under CPT.
  • A policy memo issued by USCIS last May that took effect in August 2018 expands the definition of unlawful presence for F students and accelerates the accrual of unlawful presence.

BAL Analysis: Universities, F-1 students and companies that employ students through the CPT and OPT programs should be aware of the enhanced scrutiny and prepare for requests for evidence for students seeking to change their status from F-1 to H-1B.

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

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