Consulting vs Full-time: Pros and Cons for OPT Students

The general belief is that full-time jobs are better than consulting jobs for OPT/CPT students. And there is a good reason why most of us think this way. Historically, having a full-time job ensured that your school did not question the OPT, and the USCIS approved your H1B easily. But the immigration landscape has been changing; and there are other factors that you should carefully consider before you make your choice.

OPT Extension

Full-time Job: Full-time employers may hire your during your initial OPT period, but they sometimes refuse to sign the I-983 for your extension when the see the compliance requirements for OPT STEM extension. They are not always comfortable signing off on documents saying that they are training and mentoring you. And even if they do, they do not know enough on how to comply with the reporting requirements every 6 months. Any lack of compliance may come back to bite you during the H1B process.

Consulting Job: Consulting companies are in the business of training and placement. They are usually very familiar with the STEM extension compliance requirements.

H1B Filing

Full-time Job: Some smaller full-time employers may initially promise that they will apply for your H1B, but may eventually decide that it is too complicated and too much work. We have see a number of people who missed their H1B for the year because their employer backed out.

Consulting Job: Consulting companies love to do you H1B, because it means that you will work for them longer in anticipation of H1B.

H1B Approvals

Full-time Job: Since 2018, the USCIS is looking for any and every reason to deny H1B applications. As you may have heard, the denial rate has skyrocketed since last CAP season. While right-of-control issues do not exist with full-time employers, there are other factors like specialty occupation that will create issues with full time jobs. The full-time employer has just one specific position you are hired for, and if it doesn’t line up with your education, or if the job description doesn’t fall in line with the SOC code and description, there is a very high chance of either denial or RFE.

Consulting Job: Consulting companies file hundreds of H1Bs each year. They know the rules of the game very well. And they have multiple positions at multiple clients. They can put you in a job that matches your education, and also know how to highlight the appropriate job functions to line it up with the job titles, SOC codes and the job functions expected by the USCIS.

Continuity of Status ***

This is probably one of the most important factors to consider.

Full-time Job: What happens when your employer doesn’t need your services anymore for unforeseen reasons, like budget cuts? You lose your H1B status immediately, and start accumulating unlawful presence in the country. You will then be forced into accepting the next quickest job you can find. And if the employer withdraws your H1B, and your next job doesn’t start for a few more weeks, you may have to leave the country for counselor processing for the next H1B stamping, which has it own risks.

Consulting Job: If a client project ends, it does not impact your H1B. You are not an employee of the Client. Your consulting company will move you to the next project, and file an amendment to your existing H1B. As long as your employer continues to pay you, your H1B status is safe. We have employees changing projects all the time, and there could be a few weeks of gap in-between. It is never an issue. The most important thing to understand is that a consulting employer’s interests are very closely aligned with yours. The success of their business model depends on keeping you in status and employed, which is exactly what you want.


Full-time Job: Most full-time employers require you to wait for a year or two before they file your GC. And a lot of them file it in EB3, which could take forever. Moreover, if they terminate you for some reason, or if you quit because you don’t like the job, you will have to start the GC process all over again.

Consulting Job: Consulting employers usually file your GC immediately. That is an incentive for them to retain you as an employee for a longer time. And consulting employers have no reason to terminate you as long as you are working. And if a project ends, you move on to the next project, with no impact to your GC.

Earning Potential

Full-time Job: Full-time may initially look more lucrative with the benefits etc. But typical raise in a full-time job is 3% - 5%, and you typically get raises once a year.

Consulting Job: Your marketability in consulting increases exponentially within the first year or two. Raises are usually in the 10% - 15% range, and are typically once every 6 months.

Read below to see how we handle each of the above factors, and how it will impact you long-term. 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. 

We are hiring! Use the calendar at the bottom of this page to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced recruiters to discuss your job options and OPT/H1B questions.

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.

We are hiring! Use the calendar at the bottom of this page to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced recruiters to discuss your job options and OPT/H1B questions.