Earlier this year, USCIS updated its STEM OPT website with a more narrow interpretation of the STEM OPT regulations, indicating that all STEM OPT training must take place on-site at the employer’s place of business, thereby limiting an employer's ability to place STEM OPT workers at third-party worksites. However, the STEM OPT website has once again been updated and USCIS appears to have scaled back this new interpretation. The most recent update removed the the pertinent language from the earlier update which suggested that off-site placement, including placement at a client site, was prohibited. The website now clarifies that employers are not prohibited from placing F-1 workers on STEM OPT at third-party worksites provided that a bona fide employer-employee relationship exists and all other STEM OPT training obligations are met.
More specifically, the updated guidance makes clear that, where an employer and the F-1 student working pursuant to STEM OPT have a valid employer-employee relationship, and that same employer provides the practical training experience and signs the STEM training plan, third party placement would not be prohibited under the STEM OPT regulations.
Employers and employees should continue to ensure all training and reporting obligations are met and F-1 students are reminded that status violations or a failure to maintain their status will result in the accrual of Unlawful Presence under USCIS’s new policy.