OPT Client Placements - is it a Problem?? (PART 2)

Earlier this year, there was panic all around when the USCIS updated its STEM OPT web page to imply that third-party (client) placement is not acceptable for STEM OPT extension. We published an article at that time asking students not to panic, and that this change will not really stand the scrutiny if challenged in court.

And we were right. After all these months, the USCIS finally clarified that client placement is acceptable, as long as the employer is able to prove that they provide ongoing training and have a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student.

This is exactly what the USCIS says: Staffing and temporary agencies and consulting firms may seek to employ students under the STEM OPT program, but only if they will be the entity that provides the practical training experience to the student and they have and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. STEM OPT participants may engage in a training experience that takes place at a site other than the employer’s principal place of business as long as all of the training obligations are met, including that the employer has and maintains a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student.

So make sure that the consulting company that you pick is able to demonstrate clearly that they are meeting the training obligations as required by the I-983, and are maintaining a bona fide employer-employee relationship. The USCIS is look to confirm that employers

  • 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 customized 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

We certainly follow all of the above guidelines. Call us if you have any questions.

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OPT Client Placements - is it a Problem?? (PART 1)

We are all losing our collective minds since the USCIS has updated its STEM OPT webpage to reflect an apparent change in the agency’s interpretation of the 2016 STEM optional practical training (OPT) rule for F-1 students. Please, stop and take a breath first!

Situation till date

The original OPT STEM regulations from 2016 do not specify whether the training and supervision can be conducted remotely by the employer while the employee is working offsite at a client location. Also, USCIS never specifically addressed this question. Not to mention, the form I-983 asks the employer to list both the company’s address and the worksite name and address, implying that STEM OPT students would be placed at third-party or other offsite locations.

What is new?

The USCIS has updated its STEM OPT web page to reflect a change in the its "interpretation" of the 2016 STEM optional practical training (OPT) rule for F-1 students. Now they interpret that the OPT STEM worker can only work at the employer's worksite, not at a client or third-party site. Their reasoning is that USCIS/ICE don't have the authority to visit third-party sites, and that distance learning/training is not sufficient. 

What does it mean?

While they managed to whip up a frenzy with this website update, please note:

  • They cannot just change how they interpret a regulation, after 2 years, by just updating a webpage!

  • That is not the same as issuing a new regulation, or at least a formal memo

  • The reasoning provided by the USCIS for this change doesn't really stand scrutiny. If remote training/mentoring is not OK for STEM OPTs, why is it ok for first year OPTs? And if the USCIS has a right to do site visits for H1B, why can't they visit OPT client sites?

  • This policy change will definitely be challenged in federal court; in fact there are non-profit groups that are already collecting contributions to sue the USCIS.

  • Bottom line, don't panic! We will find out more in the coming weeks, but stay put. There will always be a solution for every problem!

If you have any questions, call us. 

Discuss your OPT/H1B questions with our experienced recruiters (We are looking only for candidates with IT degrees) 



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Training, Placement, H1B & GC for OPT Students

We are starting training batches in Java, .NET, iOS, Android, UI and QA (Performance testing and automation) in the coming weeks. You can find more details on our Training page. If you are looking for a reputable consultancy with an excellent training and placement program, strong immigration track record for your OPT extension/H1B/GC processing, financial stability, consistent payment history and good employee feedback, call us today. 

Read below to see how each of the above factors will impact you long-term. And we are actively hiring OPT students with IT degrees; schedule an appointment using the calendar at the bottom of this page to discuss your options. 

OPT Stem Extension

These are the steps we took to comply with I-983 rules:

  • We created a detailed training plan that is specific to each employee, based on their degree and coursework undertaken.

  • All employees have been put on a salary schedule, and our compensation structure is designed such that the OPT employees are paid continuously, even while on bench between projects.

  • Note that the OPT STEM Extension employees should be paid and that their pay should be similar to all similarly situated employees. So we came up with a way of uniformly paying all OPT employees during their first and subsequent years, while at the same time satisfying the employees' desire to maximize their compensation.

  • The job duties and description in the form I-983 were designed to be in compliance with OPT requirements. But at the same time, we also made sure that they do not conflict with your eventual H1B application. You don't want issues from your OPT I-983 biting you in the wrong place during your H1B process.

  • We have documented in detail the in-house, in-person classroom training provided to these employees. We also did assessments before and after the training, thus documenting the value that we added as OPT employers, which is the primary requirement for an OPT employer.

  • We assigned mentors to OPT employee. These mentors are industry experts with more that a decade of experience in their fields, and will act as the technical supervisor of the employees.

  • We also assigned an administrative supervisor, who will be in charge of all the administrative and reporting requirements to stay in compliance.

  • We have an automated mechanism in place to track all the required reporting dates (every 6 and 12 months to the DSO), and also monthly updates, quarterly performance assessments as required by I-983 rules.

  • And we do this for EVERY single one of our OPT employees. Because if we are found out of compliance with just one employee, it might impact that status of all other OPT employees. Something you want to be aware of while choosing an OPT employer.

In short, we have created a process by which all the right steps are taken at the right time, so that we are able to successfully navigate any future audits and site visits from the USCIS. At the end of the day, this is the key to long-term success with immigration!

H1B Processing

Did you know that there are a number of H1 regulations that are almost always violated by most employers? Here are some examples:
* It is OUTRIGHT ILLEGAL to charge the employees for H1B fees. Yes, it is ILLEGAL. Do you want to jeopardize your future with an employer that charges you?
* Similarly situated employees should be paid equally. Meaning two people in the same metro filed at the same wage level cannot be paid differently. But it happens all the time, especially when you are working on percentage basis.
* Employers should have an established and documented wage policy that is implemented consistently across the board. But the pay rates for most consulting companies are all over the map, which is a clear violation. One Java developer is making $30/hr, while a different one is making $55/hr.
* While I-9 forms may look simple, most employers get tripped up on I-9 audits, which have become very common. Did your employer update your I-9 after your H1B was approved - most probably not!

These regulations have not been enforced by the USCIS in the past, but we all know that times have changed with Trump in the office. We are already seeing the impact on the H1B cap cases filed with Level 1 wages. You don't want to wait until the axe falls, and your employer is audited. Find an employer who has figured out how to work within the rule of law, while maintaing the flexibility and pay levels that you wish to earn.

GC Processing

GC is a long and arduous process. Find an employer willing to get your GC started right away. Ask them about the processes they have in place to overcome the usually restrictive GC requirements like prevailing wages, ability to pay, use of experience gained within the same organization etc. 

Financial Stability / Payment History / Employee Feedback

You guys are all smart enough to know that you should join a well-funded company, that has a history of paying their employees on time. Employers with 100+ consultants are usually well-funded to withstand any market downturns. But more importantly, talk to other consultants who work there. But there is one more aspect to this. When your employer files for your GC, they need to show the ability to pay (because GC is a future job). And not all employers are funded well enough.

Placement History

At the end of the day, you want to get placed and stay billable. Work with an employer that has a lot of varied clients, not just a handful of major clients. So if your project ends, they can always place you with one of their other clients. 

Where do we stand?

* We invest heavily in our immigration process to make it impeccable. We are able to meet all the regulations and requirements, while also maintaining the pay and flexibility that you desire. 
* We are financially very strong, and we have planned for market downturns and extended periods between projects. Our recruiters can tell you more.
* We have made more than 500 placements in the last few years, in over 30 states nationwide. If you are motivated, we can get you placed in a matter of weeks. We have a number of candidates that got placed within the first week.
* We will apply for your GC immediately after H1B approval. And we have 100% success rate with GCs. We got 4 GCs approved just this month.

Discuss your OPT/H1B questions with our experienced recruiters (We are looking only for candidates with IT degrees) 



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