The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced recently that it has come to the attention of its Service Center Operations (SCOPS) that certain optional practical training (OPT) science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) extension applications were denied in error. The announcement stated that the applications were not adjudicated in accordance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) OPT policy guidance.
The OPT STEM extension applications were reportedly denied because students intended to work as volunteers or unpaid interns during their periods of extension. However, according to Section 7.2.1 of SEVP’s OPT 2010 Policy Guidance, a student may work at least 20 hours per week as an unpaid volunteer or intern. All USCIS service centers have been instructed on the policy guidance to prevent the error going forward.