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.

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