A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Friday, February 7, 2014

STEM OPT Extension for Volunteer Work, Internship and Unpaid Employment

Foreign students may apply for OPT or STEM OPT extension based on unpaid employment according to SEVP's OPT 2010 Policy Guidance, Section 7.2.1:

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.

In a 2/6/2014 ICE-SEVP broadcast, it is reported that some STEM OPT extension applications were denied in error by USCIS based on the reason that the students intended to engage in unpaid employment.
If a student's STEM OPT extension application was denied solely based on this reason, he or she may contact the appropriate service center for a review or reconsideration of their application via the following dedicated student mailboxes:

California Service Center: CSC.StudentEAD@uscis.dhs.gov
Vermont Service Center: VSC.Schools@uscis.dhs.gov
Texas Service Center: TSC.Schools@uscis.dhs.gov
Nebraska Service Center: NSC.Schools@uscis.dhs.gov

The emails should include the student's name and the USCIS case receipt number of the STEM OPT extension application.

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