Amid the ongoing debates and confusion on more H1B visas getting rejected in last few months, looks like there is another trouble coming in the employers’ way, from USCIS regarding the STEM OPT placements.
USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration services) made changes in its website and those changes highlight the objection and probable prohibition of STEM OPTs working at third-party locations. There are many questions and doubts raised on this, as if the students in STEM OPT status working at third party sites are putting their visa status at jeopardy and does USCIS really can make this change?
USCIS’s website description is now updated with qualms and rules that prohibit employers from hiring STEM OPT students if the latter will work at a third-party site. Employers were confused about the fresh changes in USCIS website as to approve the students for STEM OPT or to stay away from them to avoid unwanted obligations in near future.
According to law firm experts in the USA, only ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), an agency within the Department of Homeland security issues these rules and policy guidance interpreting the STEM OPT rule. But ICE did not issue any new guidance officially and no college or university received any notification from ICE, saying that its rule has changed about STEM OPTs in third party sites.
If ICE wanted to bring a new rule or such restriction on third-party placement, it would need to issue the new rule with notice and a chance for the public to comment. So for now, students may face this short term confusion for some more time, need to confirm with their employers if offered opportunities to work primarily at third party sites and the assignments will be in a way that fulfills the regulation that training and evaluation is provided by the STEM OPT Sponsor.
Experts opine that Federal government should focus on integrating talented international students with STEM OPT rather than to find fault with their worksite locations.
* International students with F1 Visa status and pursing degree programs in the USA are granted one year of OPT (Optional Practical Training) to gain work experience in their major field of study. Students with degree qualifying STEM (students in Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) can apply for additional 24 months for OPT work authorization, known as STEM OPT.
* ‘Third-party’ placement is defined in regulations in the H- and L visa context that means a worksite controlled by a legal entity not related to the sponsoring employer.