STEM graduates Alert: US restricts job options under OPT extensions - II | opt program for international student

In my previous blog, I had mentioned how Immigrants and immigration have become some of the hot topics in the US right now and several international students who are hoping to work in the US for a longer duration will not find harder time owing to many changes being made. US immigration agencies are seeing a wave change in the policies and there are many employer obligations that are getting changed with each passing day. Let me continue from where I last left.

 

The USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) has recently given a huge set of guidelines seeking extensive explanations on the website that what will be constituting a bonafide employer and employee relationship and on the obligations of an employer. The opt training program that they undertake now can only be at the employer's own site thus denting opportunities to work in consultancies.

 

Immigration practitioners are yet to see an application of this policy to the students who are already in client sites. The US DHS has recently developed a portal in the SEVIS where the STEM OPT students to directly input information regarding their OPT employment and training progress. We can also expect that the information can also be used to monitor it for compliance. There is expected to be more scrutiny on the STEM OPT time as well during the H-1B adjudications for those students who are willing to apply for that change in status from F-1 to H-1B. SEVIS is a web-based system that can be used for maintaining information about all international non-immigrant students in the US.

 

As per the employer training obligations, the training must take place on-site at the employer’s place of business or worksites to which the US immigration and customs enforcement must have the authority to conduct the site visit to ensure that the OPT requirements are being met. In addition to it, the OPT training must not take place at the lace of business or worksite of the employer’s clients or customers because ICE would lack authority to visit such sites

 

When the ICE have these site visits it monitors employer’s compliance with all the STEM OPT rules and requirements intact. The DHS has the ability to deny STEM OPT extensions with the employers who have failed to comply with the regulations. In addition, to comply with the regulatory requirements that are related to STEM OPT extensions, it may result in a loss of status of the student.

 

Further, the employers also will not be permitted to those under an OPT program to work remotely too. The employer may not be able to fulfill their training obligations to provide a structured and a guided work-based learning experience by having the student to make periodic visits to the employer’s place of business to get the training. The student meanwhile may be actually working at the place of business to get the training at the place of business or worksite of a client or customer of the employer. For the same reason, online or distance learning arrangements may not be used to fulfill the employer’s training obligation to the student.



The United States is already seeing a drop in the number of international students with fewer student visa applications. Only 47,302 student visas were issued to Indian students during the twelve-month period ending September 30, 2017 period as compared to 65,257 visas in the earlier twelve month period. There is a steady drop of 27% that signifies a lower interest in an education from US universities. Among international students, engineering, maths, and computer science degrees are always extremely popular. If OPT opportunities narrow down, the incentive to study in the US may drop further.

 

STEM graduates Alert: US restricts job options under OPT extensions - I

Immigrants and immigration have become some of the hot topics in the US right now and several international students who are hoping to work in the US for a longer duration will not find harder time owing to many changes being made. US immigration agencies are seeing a wave change in the policies and there are many employer obligations that are getting changed with each passing day.

 

The USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) has recently given a huge set of guidelines seeking extensive explanations on the website as to what will be constituting a bonafide employer and employee relationship and on the obligations of an employer. The training that they undertake now can only be at the employer's own site thus denting opportunities to work in consultancies.

 

An international student is presently eligible for a 12 month of optional practical training in short OPT under which they can work in the US. This, in turn, will lead them to get H-1B’s. Those who are into STEM which means science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are further eligible to apply for an OPT extension which is for 24 months. The STEM students under OPT can be recruited further into consulting companies in Technology as well as business management sectors.

 

The recent explanations by the USCIS are going to apply for those who are opting for STEM OPT extensions. USCIS has spelled out that such student will not be able to work at the client sites of the employers. This is a huge blow to the students making it further difficult for students to find the suitable employer. Going a step further, many students who are already in the US on their OPT under the F01 visa can obtain h1b sponsorship jobs. Only if they get an approved US H-1B visa can they continue working in the US? Now their future prospects too can be hampered.

 

The STEM program is like a formal opt training program and both the student as well as the employer are required to sign the Form I-982 affirming that their commitment to the training. The rules that were issued last year did not debar them from working at client sites and the recent USCIS interpretation has come as a rude shock to many.

 

Nidhi, a student who is working in the US on OPT extension says,”I did not get my H-1B this year. I do not know what will be my status as I am working at client site only for the past 2 years. I am confused and do not know what to do now. I am thinking to shift back to India once the OPT ends.”. Even Social media sites are in full force with heated discussions by anxious students who have already obtained an OPT extension and are working at client sites like Nidhi. They seem to have no clarity on the present situation and whether the new interpretation would also apply to them.

 

Read more in my next blog here.