International STEM Students Under OPT Extension in U.S. to Face Job Restrictions

The updated terms of the USCIS will make it harder for international STEM students to get a job in the U.S. as they cannot be employed by consultancies anymore.


International Science, Technology, Engineering and Math(STEM) students studying in the United States have been dealt a blow by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which updated its terms for the employee-employer relationship for F-1 visa students on the Optional Practical Training (OPT).

The recent update by USCIS is applicable to the STEM OPT extensions. International students can work in the United States for 12 months after completing their degree. Students in the STEM fields can also apply to extend the OPT for another 24 months. The new update on the USCIS website prevents such students from working with third-party clients, which is what consulting companies in the technology or business management sectors do.

The STEM OPT program has been a formal training program. A Form I-982 signed by the STEM OPT student and the employer affirms their commitment to the training. The rules that were issued in 2016 did not bar work at a client site. Thus, the recent USCIS interpretation is a huge blow to these students.

The new measure will make it harder for students to get a job in the United States since they can’t be employed by consultancies anymore. Most students seek an H-1B visa after the end of the OPT.

“In order to establish a bona fide relationship, the employer may not be the student’s ’employer’ in name only, nor may the student work for the employer on a “volunteer” basis. Moreover, the employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student,” the USCIS said in a statement.

The USCIS added that an employer must have sufficient resources and trained or supervisory personnel available to provide appropriate training in connection with the specified training opportunity. These have to be at the locations where the student’s practical training experience will take place, as specified in the Form I-983.

“The ‘personnel’ who may provide and supervise the training experience may be either employees of the employer, or contractors who the employer has retained to provide services to the employer; they may not, however, be employees or contractors of the employer’s clients or customers,” it further said.

It also added that under no circumstances would another F-1 student on OPT or a STEM OPT extension (who is undergoing training in their own right) be qualified to train another F-1 student on a STEM OPT extension.

With this update, the United States government added another step in preventing legal immigration to the country. The administration has added more paperwork for H-1B visas, which has led to an-all-time low applications being sent.

According to data analyzed from 2015 to 2017 by San Francisco Chronicle, Wipro saw a 52.4 per cent reduction in number of visa applications filed by the company during the period while TCS reported a 18.3 per cent decline and Infosys saw 38.1 per cent reduction.

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