USA OPT Rule Changes: Advantage to Indian Students in USA

In a recent development, the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has made a significant change that holds promising implications for Indian students pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines in the USA. The change involves a reversal of a prior guideline related to Optional Practical Training (OPT), particularly impacting STEM students.

Understanding OPT and STEM-OPT

OPT, or Optional Practical Training, is a paid training program undertaken by international students with an F-1 Visa in the USA. This training occurs in an industry aligned with the student’s specialization. STEM-OPT specifically refers to OPT undertaken by students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields. It allows international students to apply for a 12-month OPT period, with STEM students having the additional advantage of a 24-month STEM OPT extension.

The Initial STEM-OPT Rule and Its Impact

In early 2018, USCIS introduced a rule that restricted STEM students from pursuing OPT at customer worksites. This meant that students in STEM fields were ineligible for OPT positions involving direct customer interaction. The limitation posed a challenge for STEM students, given that not all organizations could offer work environments devoid of direct customer dealings.

The consequence of this rule was a reduction in OPT job opportunities for STEM students, impacting the career prospects of numerous Indian students in the USA, especially those pursuing graduate programs.

USCIS Rule Reversal: A Boon for Indian Students

Recent revisions by USCIS have brought about a positive change by removing the restriction on STEM students working at customer worksites. The rule reversal means that employers in the industry can once again hire STEM students for OPT positions, even if these positions involve direct customer interaction. This news is particularly encouraging for thousands of Indian students currently in the USA and those aspiring to study in the country.

Key STEM-OPT Requirements

While the recent USCIS reversal opens up opportunities for STEM students, it’s essential to note that certain requirements must be met by both employers and employees participating in STEM-OPT. These include:

  1. I-983 Training Plan: Employers must implement a structured training plan outlined in form I-983.
  2. Sufficient Resources and Training Personnel: Employers should have the necessary resources and personnel capable of providing the required training.
  3. Written Training Program Document: A documented training program must be in place to ensure transparency and compliance.
  4. Bona Fide Relationship: There must be a genuine and established relationship between the employer and the employee undergoing STEM-OPT.

Conclusion

the recent USCIS rule reversal is a welcome change for Indian STEM students in the USA, offering renewed opportunities for career advancement. This alteration not only benefits current students but also enhances the appeal of studying in the USA for prospective STEM scholars. As the landscape evolves, staying informed about these immigration updates becomes crucial for international students navigating their educational and professional journeys in the United States.

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