Overseas Indian students will benefit as USCIS reverses stand on STEM OPT
Posted on August 20, 2018
Overseas Indian students are set to benefit even as USCIS has reversed its earlier stand on the OPT – Optional Practical Training for STEM students. It had ruled that STEM students on OPT cannot be placed at work sites of customers. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has now removed these restrictions through an update on its website.
Meanwhile, USCIS has reaffirmed that the training obligations will have to be met by the employers. It continues to disapprove on arrangements that offer labor for hire. The same is applicable for situations wherein authentic employee-employer relationship cannot be confirmed.
The STEM-OPT program has always had two integral aspects to it, as quoted by the Economic Times. One is the training obligation and second is the authentic relationship between employee and employer.
Overseas students are eligible for 12 months OPT through which they can work in the US. STEM graduates qualify for another 24-month extension of the OPT. These include those who have completed their degrees in Mathematics, Engineering, Technology, and Science.
The 2017 Open Doors Survey indicates that the US has around 1.9 lakh Indian students. STEM courses are the major attraction for them.
The earlier USCIS rule on STEM OPT had dented work prospects for overseas STEM students. These are typically placed by Staffing firms or IT consulting or service firms. The STEM students could no longer be hired by them for teams operating at customer worksites.
The USCIS has however now reversed its earlier stand for STEM OPT. It does not categorically bar offsite placement of STEM students on OPT. They can now participate in customer sites training. This is subject to the fulfillment of training obligations. The employer must also maintain an authentic employee-employer relationship. The training is also required to be offered by the employer and not the customer.
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