kSquare opens a new office in Dallas, TX

kSquare is happy to announce that we have a new office location in the Dallas metro area in response to the incredible demand from OPT students in the region.

kSquare Dallas

Our new location is conveniently located within minutes of the DFW airport. Our corporate accommodations are also located within a one-minute walk from the office. If you are a recent graduate looking for OPT training and placement in Texas, contact us today!

Schedule a phone consultation to discuss your OPT with one of our experienced staff below

Impact of Presidential Executive Order on OPT and H1B Visas

We have been receiving a flood of calls from panicked OPT Students trying to understand the impact of the recent executive order on their status and future prospects. Here are some of the most common questions.

1. Are F1 students on OPT allowed to travel outside the country?
2. Does executive order have any impact on OPT STEM Extensions?
3. Is there an executive order in pipeline that can impact F1 students?
4. What’s the impact of new bills introduced on H1B (to increase minimum salary to 130k)
5. Will STEM OPT will be reduced to 1 year?
6. Are they stopping immigrants at domestic airports?
7. Will there be more scrutiny on OPT extensions? Esp. thru consulting firms
8. Are CPT students impacted by executive order?

We will try to address most of the questions below.

Domestic Travel: All checks are done by Customs and Border Protection agents, who are present only at international terminals. Domestic travel would not involve such inspections, so it should not be an issue.

International Travel: If you are not from one of the seven countries mentioned in the executive order, it should not be an issue. But given the fluid nature of the situation, you should consider delaying non-essential travel, until things become clearer over the next few months. Though there has been no change in Federal policy towards H1B, we have heard reports that H1B employees were subjected to detailed questioning at the airports by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. In some cases, H-1B visa holders were even denied admission based on perceived violation of their H-1B status or alleging that there’s no evidence of availability of qualified work for them in the U.S.   

Impact on OPT & STEM Extensions: There is no immediate impact on OPT STEM Extensions. If you remember, it took a long time to pass the 24-month extension. Similarly, it will take a lengthy rule-making process or involvement by congress to change the current law. So nothing will change in the next 12 months at least, but there certainly are rumors of potential changes to the OPT rules.

So what is the real impact on OPT, CPT and H1B?

If you refer to some of Trump's comments from the past, his real issue is not with the laws, but with their enforcement. Having spoken to a number of top legal experts, we feel that the future impact will be felt in terms of increased scrutiny and enforcement of the laws pertaining to OPT, CPT and H1B. Until now, all laws were very loosely followed and enforced; expect that to change.

So what should you do? Align yourself with employers who are well-equipped to follow all future immigration changes, and who are already well-established and have been following immigration laws all along. Some employers are blindly signing the I-983 forms. According to the USCIS, to qualify for OPT Extension, you must work for an employer who meets all the requirements listed in the STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities. To qualify, an employer should

  • actually trained you extensively in a classroom based environment
  • have full-time dedicated trainers and mentors that can be mentioned on the I-983, and can prove it if there is a site visit or an RFE
  • have the facilities, resources to show that you spend time at their location before and between client projects
  • have a detailed training plan that is specifically made for each OPT student, and also a corporate training manual
  • have the administrative resources as well as the systems in place to handle all the legal and administrative work, including keeping a documented track of the ongoing supervision, training and mentoring offered as part of the OPT training plan
  • be able to pay to continuously, even between projects, according to a wage schedule that is comparable to similarly situated US worker

Employers that have been playing fast and loose with immigration should expect trouble ahead, and you don't want to be associated with them. This will not only impact your OPT, but also your future chances of H1B and GC. 

At kSquare, we have always been very diligent about immigration, and it is really paying off now. All our OPT STEM extensions have been approved so far, and we have been equally successful with H1B and GC cases as well. 

If you have a specific question related to your case, schedule an appointment with us below.

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CONTACT US TODAY to discuss your case in detail. We are actively hiring 12-month OPTs with Computer Science or IT degrees. We will work with you to prepare a training plan tailored to your degree and courses, in compliance with all other STEM Extension requirements while also keeping your future H1B/GC in mind. Use the calendar at the bottom of this post to schedule a phone consultation immediately with one of our experienced recruiters; we have limited openings. 
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Schedule a phone consultation to discuss your OPT with one of our experienced staff below

 

 

OPT STEM Extension Approval (with detailed I-983 instructions)

This post is based on our experience with applying for STEM Extensions with various schools since May 2016. We learned a few things along the way, and want to share our experience so that we can help you get your STEM Extension approved.

This post is divided into two sections.

  1. The first sections explains how to fill Form I-983, since some parts could be confusing. 
  2. The second section contains a lot of very useful information based on the questions that we received from hundreds of OPT students over the last few months. 

By the way, we are actively hiring 12-month OPTs. We will work with you to prepare a training plan tailored to your degree and courses, and bring you into compliance with all other STEM Extension requirements before you apply for your extension through us. Our training plan is prepared with you future H1B application in mind; so we make sure to keep everything consistent from your OPT to H1B to GC. Schedule a phone consultation immediately with one of our experienced recruiters; we have limited openings.

1. How to fill Form I-983

For Section 1 shown above:

  1. The date after your 12-month OPT expiration, to the date that is 24 months away. For example, if your 12-month OPT expires on 6/15/2017, it will be 6/16/2017 to 6/15/2019.
  2. Get the CIP code from your school program. Or you cansee the full list here: https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cipcode/browse.aspx?y=55
  3. Bachelors / Masters
  4. If you are applying for an extension based on a previous degree, say YES. But for most people, this would be NO.
  5. Your EAD number from the first OPT.

For Section 3 shown above:

  1. Make sure to provide a physical address, and not a PO Box or a residential address. So it is important that your employer has a real office location. 
  2. You have two options. We used the original start date from the 12-month OPT when the student actually started with us, which most schools accepted. But a couple of schools asked us to change it to the STEM Extension start date, though the student was already working for us. You can also have a date in the future, after the STEM Extension start date, as long as you are within the unemployment limits that are permitted (see FAQs below).
  3. STEM Extension has to be paid. You cannot have missed paychecks, which could come back and bite you later during the H1B process (see FAQs below). We have created a compensation structure in our company where everyone is paid continiously, even when they are on the bench. 

For Section 5 shown above:

  1. This is the site where you are actually training/working. A recent clarification from the USCIS hinted that you may have to submit a new I-983 if you are moving to a client location from the employer's location.
  2. Your employer should have a formal company-wide training plan in place. This section should be filled based on the company training plan, while also addressing how the job will enhance this specific student's knowledge that was gained during his/her degree. We engaged the Law Offices of Sheela Murthy, the top immigration firm in the country, to draft a company-wide training plan that forms the basis for each individual I-983 that we fill. 
  3. Here you have to formulate specific goals for the student and how they will be met. So these need to be written by someone experienced, who is able to look at the student's degree and relate it to the job. We have a dedicated immigration specialist in-house, who is intimately familiar with the nuances of various degrees and job descriptions.
  4. Your employer should have a mechanism to provide oversight, even if you are at a client site. And if there is a site visit, your employer should have documented evidence that oversight is being provided. We have put a process in place to monitor, guide, train and document the entire training process, even when the students are working on client projects.
  5. On top of the oversight, employers should also do measurements and assessments to make sure that the student is meeting the goals set in the previous section. We built an tracking process that documents their progress, and also instituted periodic reviews that will be documentary evidence if any of this is questions during a site visit or during the H1B process (see FAQs below). 

For the Evaluation section shown above:

  1. This Evaluation must be left blank when you apply. This needs to be filled out after 1 year.
  2. This Final Evaluation must be left blank when you apply. This needs to be filled out after the completion of the STEM OPT, at the end of 24 months.

We are actively hiring 12-month OPTs. We will work with you to prepare a training plan tailored to your degree and courses, and bring you into compliance with all other STEM Extension requirements before you apply for your extension through us. Our training plan is prepared with you future H1B application in mind; so we make sure to keep everything consistent from your OPT to H1B to GC. Schedule a phone consultation immediately with one of our experienced recruiters; we have limited openings.

Read the FAQs in section 2 below. But if you have further questions, feel free to schedule a phone consultation with one of our knowledgeable recruiters using the calendar below.

 

2. OPT STEM Extension FAQs

Relationship to your STEM Degree

My job is not related to my degree, is that a problem for extension? 
Unfortunately it could be a problem. In form I-983, the employee will have to attest that "My practical training opportunity is directly related to the STEM degree that qualifies me for the STEM OPT extension". And the employer will have to attest that "The student’s practical training opportunity is directly related to the STEM degree that qualifies the student for the STEM OPT extension, and the position offered to the student achieves the objectives of his or her participation in this training program;". These are legally binding statements that both the employee and the employer are making to the USCIS, so making inaccurate statements can land both of them in trouble down the road.

I have a degree in Electrical/ Electronics/ Information Systems/ Computers Science - can I do an IT job?
Most of these degrees have enough computer related courses, so it may not be difficult to defend that your IT job is related to your degree. But this is only possible if your employer has a very solid training plan in place that has been tailored for you individually, and in-house full-time trainers, training facilities, and the resources required to stay on top of the administrative and legal work required to maintain the OPTs.

My degree is not IT related, but I am doing an IT job, what are my options?
For example, ff you have a pharmacy degree and are working on pharmacy software, or a math degree and working on a mathematical or computational software, you should be able to say that your degree is related to your work. But that is not the case for most people. Most of us are all doing SAP with a Mechanical degree! If you have a few more months left on your initial OPT, then it is better to sit tight for the time being and see how USCIS is adjudicating the new STEM extension cases. Some of the first approvals will start rolling in by August, and you will have a better idea on what to do. If they strictly enforce this rule, you may not have too many more options other than going back to school and getting a CPT. 

12-month OPT, Looking for Extension

We are actively hiring 12-month OPTs. We will work with you to prepare a training plan tailored to your degree and courses, and bring you into compliance with all other STEM Extension requirements before you apply for your extension through us. Our training plan is prepared with you future H1B application in mind; so we make sure to keep everything consistent from your OPT to H1B to GC. Schedule a phone consultation immediately with one of our experienced recruiters; we have limited openings.

How soon do we need to apply for OPT extension?
Submit the Form I-765 up to 90 days before your current OPT employment authorization expires, but within 60 days of the date your designated school official (DSO) enters the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record.

I am on 12-month OPT, my employer is not signing I-983, what should I do?
You are strongly advised to find a new employer who meets all the OPT STEM Extension requirements as soon as possible. Do not wait till the last minute; good employers may not accept you if you they have to file the extension immediately. See the next question to understand who is a good/qualified employer. Feel free to schedule a consultations with us; we are hiring qualified OPTs.

I am on 12-month OPT, am I safe if I know that my employer is signing I-983?
Some employers are blindly signing the I-983 forms. According to the USCIS, to qualify for OPT Extension, you must work for an employer who meets all the requirements listed in the STEM OPT Employer Responsibilities. To qualify, an employer

  • has actually trained you extensively in a classroom based environment
  • has full-time dedicated trainers and mentors that can be mentioned on the I-983, and can prove it if there is a site visit or an RFE
  • has the facilities, resources to show that you spend time at their location before and between client projects
  • has a detailed training plan that is specifically made for each OPT student, and also a corporate training manual
  • has the administrative resources as well as the systems in place to handle all the legal and administrative work, including keeping a documented track of the ongoing supervision, training and mentoring offered as part of the OPT training plan
  • is able to pay to continuously, even between projects, according to a wage schedule that is comparable to similarly situated US workers

We are actively hiring 12-month OPTs. We will work with you to prepare a training plan tailored to your degree and courses, and bring you into compliance with all other STEM Extension requirements before you apply for your extension through us. Our training plan is prepared with you future H1B application in mind; so we make sure to keep everything consistent from your OPT to H1B to GC. Schedule a phone consultation immediately with one of our experienced recruiters; we have limited openings.

Consulting Jobs and STEM Extension

Can I work for a consulting/staffing company and qualify for STEM Extension?
We have addressed this question extensively in one of our other blog posts. You should be able to defend the requirements of OPT Extension if your employer:

  • has actually trained you extensively in a classroom based environment
  • has full-time dedicated trainers and mentors that can be mentioned on the I-983, and can prove it if there is a site visit or an RFE
  • has the facilities, resources to show that you spend time at their location before and between client projects
  • has a detailed training plan that is specifically made for each OPT student, and also a corporate training manual
  • has the administrative resources as well as the systems in place to handle all the legal and administrative work, including keeping a documented track of the ongoing supervision, training and mentoring offered as part of the OPT training plan
  • is able to pay to continuously, even between projects, according to a wage schedule that is comparable to similarly situated US workers

Should I look for a full-time job that is not consulting based?
That would be ideal if you are able to find a regular job. But most regular employees are not willing to deal with the burden of I-983 and the associated requirements. 

Can we do training and marketing remotely?
See the answer to the earlier question on working for consulting/staffing companies. 

Changing Employers during OPT

Can I change employers during OPT?
Yes, you are allowed to change employers. 

We are actively hiring 12-month OPTs. We will work with you to prepare a training plan tailored to your degree and courses, and bring you into compliance with all other STEM Extension requirements before you apply for your extension through us. Our training plan is prepared with you future H1B application in mind; so we make sure to keep everything consistent from your OPT to H1B to GC. Schedule a phone consultation immediately with one of our experienced recruiters; we have limited openings.

I have an RFE for my OPT extension, can I change employers now?
Yes, you are allowed to change employers. You will have to provide a new I-983 to your DSO and obtain a new I-20. Then respond to the RFE with a letter explaining that you changed employers, submit a new I-765 with your new employment information, along with the old I-765. You don't have to pay the fee again.

Payroll and Extension

Do I have to be paid during the 12-month OPT?
It is not required, you can be unpaid.

Do I have to be paid during OPT Extension? What happens if I am not paid?
Yes, you are required to be paid. With the new rules, your employer has to pay all employees consistently, according to a wage policy that pays commensurate with similarly situated US workers. Paying percentage will not work, because different employees in the same LCA region will end us with different wages, which will create a problem. Your employer is not required to document your pay in form I-983, and gaps in pay might create issues if there is an RFE for OPT extension, or down the road when you apply for H1B. 

How long can I be unemployed during OPT?
During the first 12-month OPT: 90 days max
During 17-month extension: Another 30 days, total 120 days
During 24-month extension: Another 30 days, total 150 days

H1B and Extension

How will OPT extension impact my future H1B application?
In the past, the USCIS did not have a detailed record of your OPT employment when you apply for H1B. But now, you are documenting your employer, wages, location etc. and submitting it to your DSO. This document can be requested by the USCIS as part of an RFE wither for OPT, or in the future when you apply for a H1B. So any statements that you make today should be consistent in the future too. And the same applied for your employer as well. So any missteps by your employer in other cases can come back to impact your case. So be very careful in choosing the right employer. 

My H1B has been approved. Should I apply for an extension?
If your H1B has been approved, and your current OPT ends before October 1st, you will qualify for cap-gap. Your DSO should be able to approve your cap-gap until Sept 30th, and you can move to H1B on October 1st. But if your current employer terminates your employment in the meantime, you will be out of status. You should only apply for an extension if you are not sure about your employment.

My H1B has been picked in the lottery. What should I do about the extension?
It is better to move to H1B than be on OPT. So if it has been picked, and you have time left on your OPT, go ahead and apply for premium processing now (it can be done by sending in the premium request and $1225 fee), and you will know the status of your approval in 15 days. You may be able to avoid OPT extension altogether.

OPT Denial

If my extension is denied will I have to go back to India?
Students who do not exceed 90/120 days of unemployment are granted a 60-day grace period after the end date listed on the EAD (Employment Authorization Document). Within this 60-day grace period, you have the following options: 

  • Depart the U.S. Once you leave the U.S. (including trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies and OPT period, you are not eligible to reenter with your current I-20. The grace period is meant for travel within the states and preparation to depart the U.S.
  • Reenroll in your school and request a new I-20 for a new degree program. 
  • Enroll in a new school and transfer your SEVIS record to a new school. CPT is an option you should seriously consider.
  • Apply to change status to another visa category.

Can I apply for H1B if my OPT is denied?
Yes you can, if your status is valid until the H1B start date, which will be October 1st. 

Does multiple change of employers result in denial of opt extension ?
No, it should not. If you have not properly reported your employment changes, or had more than the allowed amount of unemployment, it could potentially cause issues. 

We are actively hiring 12-month OPTs. We will work with you to prepare a training plan tailored to your degree and courses, and bring you into compliance with all other STEM Extension requirements before you apply for your extension through us. Our training plan is prepared with you future H1B application in mind; so we make sure to keep everything consistent from your OPT to H1B to GC. Schedule a phone consultation immediately with one of our experienced recruiters; we have limited openings.

If you have further questions on STEM Extension, feel free to schedule a phone consultation with one of our knowledgeable recruiters using the calendar earlier in the post.