According to reports, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to revoke or fail to renew 1,100 Optional Practical Training (OPT) work permits of international students. OPT allows international students to work in a field directly related to their area of study while on F-1 student visas. Of the total, USCIS is alerting 700 that it is revoking their permits, and the agency will not renew another 400 upon expiration.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) attributed the action to anti-fraud efforts. DHS officials noted that working in a position unrelated to the field of study can constitute fraud. There were indications that the crackdown is targeting not only international students but also participating employers and universities, such as by terminating designated school officials who approve work placements that do not meet OPT requirements.
Also, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 15 nonimmigrant students for claiming they were employed by nonexistent companies. The 15 arrests took place in and around Boston, MA; Washington, DC; Houston, TX; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Newark, NJ; Nashville, TN; and Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, PA. Those arrested included 11 Indian nationals, two Libyan nationals, one Senegalese national, and one Bangladeshi national. ICE said it “will continue to vet students who gained new employment through OPT for compliance with their nonimmigrant status.”
There are more than 220,000 international OPT students in the United States. OPT enables nonimmigrant students to work in positions related to their field of study for up to one year, with an additional 24 months if the student graduates with a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degree.