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ICE Releases SEVP Guidance on Errors in Denials of STEM OPT Extensions

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on February 6, 2014, that some optional practical training (OPT) science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) extension applications were denied in error. USCIS said they were not adjudicated in accordance with applicable Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) OPT policy guidance. USCIS sent the alert to notify affected designated school officials and to provide instructions.

USCIS said that some OPT STEM extension applications were denied in error because the student applicants intended to work as volunteers or unpaid interns during their extension periods. To prevent this problem from happening again, USCIS's Service Center Operations (SCOPS) instructed all USCIS Service Centers to follow ICE SEVP's policy guidance regarding work as a volunteer or unpaid intern.

The alert notes that SEVP's OPT 2010 policy guidance states that a student may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern for at least 20 hours per week. The alert says that 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 emailing the applicable dedicated student emailbox. The student should provide his or her full name and the USCIS receipt number relating to the denied application. The email addresses are:

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

ALERT

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