We continue to receive a surge of questions from those who have been adversely impacted by the situation surrounding AzTech, Integra, Aandwill, Wireless, and other questionable OPT-related companies. Interestingly, we have also been contacted by those who have not felt any adverse consequences yet nor are aware of any impact, but potentially may have some exposure because of their OPT past. What should they do? Reaching out to a lawyer is a good start.
Without stating the obvious, these individuals may already have been impacted; they just don’t know it yet. In the eyes of the government, their mere association with a suspect OPT organization opens the door for adverse action: visa revocation; denial of a future USCIS H-1B or green card petition; refusal of an employment authorization or change of status or adjustment of status application; the opening of removal proceedings in the US; expedited removal and/or the imposition of a permanent bar at an airport or other point of entry; and/or a visa refusal or finding of permanent inadmissibility under Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Those outside the US are more at risk because of their location: they have fewer rights than those located in the US.
Even if you have not been contacted by ICE or received a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) or Revoke (NOIR), one should not take that as a sign that all is OK. If you have long-term plans for the US and were associated with one of these companies, you should not rest on your laurels. It may just mean that the government has not reached your case yet or that you do not have a pending application or petition for an immigration benefit. You should use this extra time to plan for what may happen next – to educate yourself about your rights and what preemptive steps you can take to prevent adverse action from being taken. As you know, the visa and immigration processes can take many years and the question of OPT compliance can arise at any point during that time. Even marriage to a US citizen or work visa holder may not save your immigration status.
By planning now you can protect yourself against future misrepresentations in filings with the government, for example, in a resume. By planning now you can know what to do if ICE shows up on your doorstep or at your workplace. By planning now you can know the risks that you run by leaving the US or submitting a future application or petition (e.g., if you switch employers). By planning now you can know whether to inform your employer or contact your DSO.
Please feel free to contact us to discuss your situation.