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OPT Denials for Unpaid Internship

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[SIZE=4]Did you receive OPT RFE from NSC center? "Report an Issue" in NAFSA's IssueNet[/SIZE][B][SIZE=4][FONT=comic sans ms]

[/FONT][/SIZE][/B][SIZE=2][FONT=comic sans ms]NAFSA Follows Up With NSC On Question Of Unpaid Internships And OPT: [/FONT][/SIZE][FONT=comic sans ms]NAFSA ([/FONT][FONT=comic sans ms][COLOR=#363636]National Association of Foreign Student Advisers) [/COLOR][/FONT][FONT=comic sans ms]has received reports that the Nebraska Service Center (NSC) has denied some STEM OPT extension applications based on a finding that periods of unpaid internship or volunteer activity during standard post-completion OPT do not constitute "employment" for purposes of complying with the 90-day limit on unemployment.
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[FONT=comic sans ms]The Student and Exchange Visitor Program's (SEVP) April 23, 2010 OPT policy guidance, however, states that unpaid internships and volunteer work can satisfy the OPT employment requirement, as long as that activity does not violate any labor laws (such as the Fair Labor Standards Act).[/FONT]

[FONT=comic sans ms]NAFSA and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) are following up with USCIS and SEVP on this issue. If you receive such a decision or RFE from the NSC, please let us know through "Report an Issue" in NAFSA's IssueNet

Read more at NAFSA : http://bit.ly/Im5jVp
Read message from Murthy Law firm: [/FONT]http://bit.ly/18EtsRB
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  1. DesiOPTForumAdmin's Avatar
    [h=1]NAFSA Follows Up With SEVP and USCIS On Question Of Unpaid Internships And OPT[/h][COLOR=#363636][FONT=Arial]February 07, 2014[/FONT][/COLOR]
    [COLOR=#363636][FONT=Arial]In October, 2013, NAFSA received several reports that the Nebraska Service Center (NSC) had denied some STEM OPT extension applications based on a finding that periods of unpaid internship or volunteer activity during standard post-completion OPT did not constitute "employment" for purposes of complying with the 90-day limit on unemployment specified by 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(E). The Student and Exchange Visitor Program's (SEVP) April 23, 2010 OPT policy guidance, however, states that unpaid internships and volunteer work [I]can[/I] satisfy the OPT employment requirement, as long as that activity does not violate any labor laws (such as the Fair Labor Standards Act).[/FONT][/COLOR]
    [COLOR=#363636][FONT=Arial]NAFSA and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) followed up with USCIS and SEVP on this issue, and on February 6, 2014, SEVP sent Broadcast Message 1401-05, communicating to SEVIS users a "USCIS Student OPT Public Announcement" that "some recently denied optional practical training (OPT) science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) extension applications were not adjudicated in accordance with applicable Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) OPT policy guidance, resulting in the applications being denied in error."[/FONT][/COLOR]
    [COLOR=#363636][FONT=Arial]The USCIS message contained in the SEVP Broadcast Message describes the basis for the finding of error, and a procedure for reporting to USCIS any applications that were denied on that basis:[/FONT][/COLOR]
    [TABLE="class: table2, width: 1"]
    [TR]
    [TD]"SEVP's OPT 2010 Policy Guidance, Section 7.2.1 (p. 17-18) states, in part:
    [INDENT]"Unpaid employment. A student may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for a student on post-completion OPT. A student must be able to provide evidence acquired from the student’s employer to verify that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment."[/INDENT]Notwithstanding this guidance, some OPT STEM extension applications were recently denied in error based on the fact that the student applicants intended to work as volunteers or unpaid interns during their extension periods. To prevent this problem from happening again, SCOPS has instructed all USCIS Service Centers to follow ICE SEVP’s OPT Policy Guidance regarding work as a volunteer or unpaid intern.
    If a student’s OPT STEM application was denied solely on the basis that he or she intended to work as a volunteer or unpaid intern, the student should contact the Service Center that issued the denial by sending an email message to the applicable dedicated student mailbox (listed below). In the email message, the student should provide his or her full name, as well as his or her USCIS receipt number relating to the denied OPT STEM extension application."
    [/TD]
    [/TR]
    [/TABLE]
    [COLOR=#363636][FONT=Arial]As currently written, though, the USCIS announcement contained in the SEVP Broadcast Message references only[I]intended[/I] unpaid training [I]during the STEM OPT extension period[/I], stating that:[/FONT][/COLOR]

    [LIST][*]“some OPT STEM extension applications were recently denied in error based on the fact that the student applicants [I]intended [/I]to work as volunteers or unpaid interns [I]during their extension periods[/I];” and[*]"If a student’s OPT STEM application was denied solely on the basis that he or she[I] intended to work [/I]as a volunteer or unpaid intern…”[/LIST]
    [COLOR=#363636][FONT=Arial]However, specific cases forwarded to NAFSA also included denials on the basis of work [I]already performed[/I] as a volunteer or unpaid intern during the applicant’s initial period of post-completion OPT. Those cases were not denied because USCIS found that the proposed STEM OPT employment would be unpaid, but rather because USCIS asserted that prior unpaid internships during the initial period of post-completion OPT would not be considered “employment,” and thereby found the students to have accumulated more than 90 days of unemployment.[/FONT][/COLOR]
    [COLOR=#363636][FONT=Arial]NAFSA is therefore asking SEVP and USCIS for additional clarification to confrim that:[/FONT][/COLOR]

    [LIST][*]Work as a volunteer or unpaid intern is appropriate not only during the STEM OPT extension period, but during the standard period of post-completion OPT as well; and that[*]The procedures for contacting USCIS will be applicable for cases denied on the basis of prior work already performed as a volunteer or unpaid intern during the standard period of post-completion OPT.[/LIST]
    [COLOR=#363636][FONT=Arial]We will update this page with any further clarifications we receive.

    Source: http://bit.ly/1m8PNvw[/FONT][/COLOR]