Optional Practical Training for STEM Students

Published on 04/14/2016

Hello, I’m Vaughan de Kirby. I’m an investment immigration attorney based here in San Francisco. Our brief video today is about OPT, which if you are an F-1 student, can be very important to you. We recently received notice from USCIS that they have indeed enacted additional regulations that may allow you to extend your OPT beyond 12 months, if your degree is in the so-called STEM area. That stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  But with everything that USCIS gives us, as an additional right or additional possibility, they add regulations and this is no exception. There are additional requirements on students, and additional requirements on their OPT employers. Let’s take a look at those.

For the student, you’re going to have to prepare an annual self-evaluation. I recommend that you work with your immigration attorney to make sure that you meet all the necessary requirements. You’re going to have an obligation, and that’s a new reporting obligation. That again you should discuss with your immigration attorney. If you’re an employer, although being an employer is a great thing in OPT, it does come with some burden, and they added a little bit of burden here. They require the employer to provide a formal training plan and again I recommend you work with an immigration attorney to help prepare this and make sure it meets USCIS requirements. There must be fairness to the employee; you must certify that the student is paid a salary that is equal to a salary for similar workers.  You must also show that by hiring this foreign employee, you’re not replacing this position with an OPT student when in fact it could be filled by an American citizen or permanent resident. There is going to be DHS oversight, and this is something that you’re going to need to be aware of as an employer. None of these things are that onerous for the employer. I recommend you work with either an immigration attorney that works with your company, or with the immigration attorney that may be representing your student.

This is a very important extension of OPT, and it may be very important to both the student and the employer who has a valuable employee that they want to keep.  We just want to make certain that all of the requirements of USCIS are met. Work with your employer, work with your attorney, and this should not be a problem. Thank you!

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us or call 415-221-2345.

Vaughan de Kirby
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San Francisco California EB-5 Investment Immigration Attorney


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