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SEVP Issues Guidance on Determining a Direct Relationship Between Employment and a Student’s Major Area of Study

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) published policy guidance regarding the responsibilities of F-1 students who are employed based on Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM OPT.  ICE reminds these students that they are responsible for providing a description of how their job relates to their major area of study to the Designated School Official (DSO) at their college or university.

OPT permits up to 12 months of temporary employment for certain foreign national students.  Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) OPT permits an additional 24-month period of temporary employment with qualified employers of foreign national students who have graduated with degrees in approved STEM fields.

The DSO must review the student’s description, and determine whether there is a direct relationship between the job and the student’s major area of study.  The decision should be made on a case-by-case basis, and the DSO can request additional documentation if he or she has concerns.  The DSO must retain the description of the direct relationship and monitor and update the student’s records in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), the ICE web-based system that maintains information on foreign national students and exchange visitors in the U.S.

The student’s descriptions of the direct relationship should be retained in SEVIS.  Students can enter the information in the SEVP Portal, a database linked to SEVIS, or DSOs can enter the information directly in SEVIS.  As a less preferable alternative, the DSO can obtain an explanation of how the job 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 SEVIS indicating that the DSO has received an explanation of the direct relationship and will maintain the record in the student’s file.

The written description, retained in SEVIS or otherwise, should include:

  • Student’s job title;
  • Employer name;
  • Major area of study;
  • Whether full time or the average hours worked per week; and
  • A brief explanation of how 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.

Please contact our office with questions about OPT or STEM OPT and about ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program.