There remains a number of unanswered questions regarding the Jan 2018 web-site changes to the use of the OPT STEM program in the circumstances of a 3rd party placement but, several schools have issued announcements indicating that no 3rd party placements are appropriate for OPT STEM workers. Below is the interpretation and direction from one US school.

Dear Employer,

This email describes a very important update in the interpretation by USCIS of STEM OPT requirements for staffing companies who are supervising STEM OPT employment. We are notifying many students, alumni, and employers about this change, so kindly disregard this notice if it does not apply to you.

Our university offers international F-1 visa students three sequential phases of full-time employment:
1. Curricular Practical Training (CPT): 12 months or longer of employment.
2. Post completion Optional Practical Training (OPT year 1): 12 months of employment.
3. STEM extension of OPT: 24 additional months of employment after OPT year 1 has ended.

The STEM OPT regulation that USCIS dramatically clarified last week is highlighted here:
“The Employer’s Training Obligation: Staffing and Temporary Agencies
“Staffing and temporary agencies 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 at its own place of business…
“Such entities may not, however, assign or contract out students to work for one of their customers or clients, and assign, or otherwise delegate, their training responsibilities to the customer or client…
“Moreover, the student’s practical training experience must be provided by the employer’s own trained or supervisory personnel at the employer’s own place of business or worksite(s), to which ICE has authority to conduct employer site visits to ensure that the employer is meeting program requirements…”

Our university is not attempting to offer legal advice to you on the immigration impact of this. Also, this change in USCIS policy might be reversed. The change applies to STEM OPT, but we will monitor the situation for future changes in CPT and OPT policies. Meanwhile, we think it is prudent that we act now and plan wisely to avoid possible issues with client projects.

1. Many CPT students are working at staffing companies. The changes listed on the USCIS website page do not apply to CPT students.
2. Some of our OPT (year 1 of OPT) students not yet in STEM OPT have been working at client sites. The new USCIS website page does not apply to regular (year 1) OPT students. However, if a transition to internal employment located at the staffing company’s office can be arranged, that should be done prior to the employee applying for STEM OPT. If employment needs to end due to the student nearing the STEM OPT phase, please consider as a possible solution hiring an experienced developer from our CPT program.
3. For staffing company and agency employers with STEM OPT employees who are working at client sites, we recommend a transition of the employees into projects at the staffing company’s office. If this is not feasible, please work toward a smooth transition if needing to end the employment with the current client. If a replacement contract employee is needed, please consider our experienced CPT candidates in job search who are currently available for hire.

In addition, Bloomberg Law, a highly respected resource for US corporations provided a nice summary worth reading.

More info. is expected from the NAFSA annual conference to be held at the end of May.

We will update you as developments occur.