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ICE clarifies that certain F-1 student volunteer positions are disqualified from OPT

  1. Date Announced

    May 18, 2018

    ICE releases a broadcast SEVIS message indicating that volunteer positions unrelated to a student's course of study do not qualify as OPT employment, and no volunteer positions qualify for a STEM extension. ICE also states that noncitizens in these positions continue to accrue unemployment for the purposes of the 90-day limit. Reporting non-qualifying volunteer opportunities as OPT employment will be deemed a violation of reporting requirements and subjects non-citizens to removal from the United States. [ID #721]

    View Policy Document
  2. Effective Date of Change

    May 18, 2018
Status: Final/Actual
Type of Action: Agency Directive
Agencies Affected: ICE USCIS

Prior Policies

  • ICE’s 2008 SEVP OPT Policy Guidance contained explicit language prohibiting the use of volunteer experience to count towards the fulfillment of a student’s employment obligations while in the 17-month extension OPT period. However, in 2010, this policy guidance was revised and replaced with a version that eliminated this restrictive language. Absent explicit prohibition of the use of volunteer experience, particularly when such a restriction was previously in place, it was reasonable to conclude that a student engaged in an unpaid position related to his/her degree program would not be considered “unemployed.”

    2010 SEVP Policy Guidance 1004-03 – Update to Optional Practical Training

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