As you know, a lot of consulting companies, and students considering consulting jobs, are panicking at this moment with the new OPT STEM Extension rules, and the attestations required by the employer. So is it really a problem? The short answer is – both YES and NO.
So what is the problem?
1. There has to be a detailed Training Plan. It is not something that an employer can quickly slap together, it will have to be made part of your form I-983. This form is addressed to your school DSO/USCIS. You, as a student, and your employer, will be held accountable to all the attestations that you make in this form. Inaccuracies and inconsistencies can result in a denial of your OPT Extension, or may even impact your eventual H1B approval (see item number 10 below).
2. And these training plans cannot be a one-size-fits-all plans. They are employee specific, since they are supposed to help enhance the knowledge that YOU obtained as part of YOUR degree. Not many consulting companies are equipped with resources required to create plans that are customized at the employee level.
3. All material changes to the plan will have to be reported. If you are working on consulting projects, your work location could change multiple times over those 24 months. This is certainly a material change that needs to be reported – how would you handle this?
4. What happens if your consulting project ends –will your employer continue to employ and pay you, or will they report you as terminated? This is certainly a material change.
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5. How do you show that the Training Plan is directly related to your degree, and will extend the knowledge that you gained during your STEM degree?
6. It also requires ongoing supervision, training and mentoring. Does your employer have processes in place to substantiate that such supervision was provided in a manner that is acceptable to the USCIS?
7. The OPT employment should not replace any other type of workers, including citizens, GCs or H1B workers. How do you prove that?
8. And the rules require that the OPT employee is paid commensurate with similarly situated US workers. What does this mean?
9. The employer is required to have sufficient resources and personnel to provide training and ongoing oversight & supervision. Can a small consulting company with minimal administrative staff and offshore training argue that they are equipped to handle the new rules? The USCIS clearly says that they will conduct site visits to confirm that all the attestations made by the employers are true. While online trainings are popular among students, such trainings will not meet the USCIS compliance requirements.
10. And what happens when you file for your H1B eventually? What if the USCIS issues an RFE for your H1B and asks you to submit your I-983? This is entirely possible because, today, they ask for your CPT Cooperative Agreement during H1B process. There is no reason why they cannot ask for your I-983 in the future as part of your H1B. Does the job location in your I-983 match the job location in your H1B? How do you keep them in sync so that it is not an issue?
How did we address it?
While the above rules make it seem impossible for consulting companies to employ OPT Extension students, it is not nearly as bad for those employers that are fully equipped to handle these changes. We have consulted some of the top attorneys in the country, including Sheela Murthy, to advise us on these changes so that we can be fully in compliance.
We have come up with a very detailed training plan that spans the whole 24 months of STEM extension, which will be further customized by our experienced staff to fit the OPT training goals of each individual student and their specific degree. We have processes in place to address the supervision and oversight requirements. We have highly qualified industry experts with over 15 years of US experience working as our full-time trainers. They will act as trainers, mentors and supervisors, which will meet the compliance requirements easily. We have also leveraged technology to align our administrative workflow to stay on top of the material changes that may occur in your employment duties, location etc. over these 24 months and came up with a solution to keep the information in sync with the DSO so that it will not present an issue during your H1B.
Make sure that the employer you pick is knowledgeable, and is large enough to commit the administrative staff and resources required to stay in compliance with the new rules. Feel free to call our highly knowledgeable recruiters to understand and explore how we can help you if you are a student with OPT.