Student and Visitor Exchange Program (SEVP) of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within U.S. Department of Homeland Security issues a Policy Guidance which addresses both OPT and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) OPT extension opportunities and explains that students are responsible for providing a description of how their job relates to their major area of study, which the DSO must review and retain. When the DSO has concerns about whether the job directly relates to the student’s major area of study, additional documentation may be required to demonstrate the connection. https://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/optDirectlyRelatedGuidance.pdf
This guidance supersedes any information previously provided by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) on this matter.
Documenting the Direct Relationship:
Non immigrant students are responsible for providing a description of how their practical training opportunity relates to their major area of study, which the DSO must review and retain. Preferably, this description would be entered in the free text section in SEVIS, described above, which is provided for the purpose of capturing this information. Students can enter the information by using the Portal or DSOs can enter the information directly in SEVIS. 4 As an alternative to entering the information in SEVIS, the DSO must obtain an explanation of how the j ob relates to the student’s major area of study and retain that explanation in the student’s records. SEVP may request this information as part of a compliance review. If an explanation is not entered in SEVIS, a notation should be made in the free text field indicating that the DSO has received an explanation of the direct relationship and will maintain the record in the student’s fil e. The written explanation, maintained in SEVIS or otherwise, should include the student’s job title, employer name, major area of study, whether fu ll time5 or the average hours worked per week, and a brief explanation of bow the job is directly related to the student’s studies. The regular duties should be explained and the nexus between those duties and the degree described (see examples provided at the end of this document).
Assessing the Direct Relationship:
As described in the regulations , when a DSO recommends a student for OPT or STEM OPT, the school assumes additional responsibilities to monitor and update the student’s SEVIS record. Consistent with those responsibilities, a DSO must make a determination of whether there is a direct relationship between the job and the major area of study. The decision should be made on a case-by-case basis. The inquiry is whether there is a logical connection between the duties involved in the practical training opportunity and the student’s major area of study. In the vast majority of cases, a DSO should be able to make that assessment based on the documentation provided by the student.
If a DSO believes that the documentation does not provide a sufficient explanation, they should ask for additional evidence to better understand the relationship. Although not required, DSOs may make use of websites that provide a general crosswalk between jobs and programs of study. Examples of these types of websites include, but are not limited to, sites maintained by the College Board, the Department of Labor and the National Center for Education Statistics.
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Note: This is a blog post by Adhikari Law PLLC and should NOT be construed as a legal advice.