Department of Homeland Security has started performing site visits to employer locations that train STEM OPT students. As a OPT Student, here are the 5 things you should know while working on OPT.
DHS is checking to see if the employer has sufficient resources and supervisory personnel to run the OPT STEM Training program. See screenshot below from DHS website.
Does the employer have full-time senior level technical trainers in-house to train and mentor the OPT STEM students?
Do they have classroom and training facilities, or are they just doing online from a small office or a basement? Online training are particularly risky in this environment.
Do they have administrative resources to maintain the I-983 program related compliance and administrative tasks?
Is the employer paying the STEM OPT students the same as other similarly situated employees within the organization?
Does your employer have a consistent and well-defined wage policy that is used across the board, or do they pay various rates depending on the opportunity?
Is the training plan in I-983 consistent with your current job and your degree?
Does your employer take your degree, transcript and courses into consideration and create a training plan customized for you, or do they use a one-size-fits-all training plan? That could be trouble! And does your actual job at the client site match your I-983?
Does the employer comply with ongoing STEM OPT requirements?
Does the employer provide evaluations to the DSO every 6-months?
If you are working at a client site, how is the employer supervising you? How are they facilitating ongoing learning?
Is there communication with your supervisory officer at the employer, as well as the technical leads and the managers at the employer, while you are at a client site?
This doesn’t end with OPT. During your H1B process, USCIS has started to question the validity and proof that your STEM was compliant. We provided some screenshots from 2019 H1B RFE, take a look. So you want to think very carefully before joining a consulting company on STEM OPT - do your due diligence!
Screenshot from DHS Website
Screenshot from 2019 RFE Qestioning STEM OPT
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!
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 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.
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.