stem opt allowed to work as contractors

USCIS announced today that F1 Visa students on STEM OPT can work at the third party client site but with conditions.

The Background:

The USCIS updated the website with the language that restricted  F1 students on STEM OPT from working at the client location. Combining that with the Accrual of Unlawful presence memo, made F1 students on STEM OPT feel uneasy about their status in the US.

Update from USCIS (April 2018)

Here is the update posted at the USCIS Website in April 2018.

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 and they have a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. For instance, a student might possibly receive STEM-related training while working in such an entity’s information technology (IT) department.

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. As noted above, the employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student. 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.


Read the Announcement from USCIS (Aug 17, 2018)

Additionally, DHS is clarifying that STEM OPT participants may engage in a training experience that takes place at a site other than the employer’s principal place of business as long as all of the training obligations are met, including that the employer has and maintains a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. DHS will review on a case-by-case basis whether the student will be a bona fide employee of the employer signing the Training Plan, and verify that the employer that signs the Training Plan is the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.

Compare the two highlighted text from the USCIS website from April and the latest announcement on August 17, 2018.

So, it’s all good right? Not yet!

Reading between the lines:

Review the highlighted sections from the USCIS STEM OPT website. USCIS have made it real clear.

f1 stem opt working at contractors site training requirements



stem opt employer site requirements

Please read the highlighted sections carefully.

  1. Can you STEM OPT student work at the client site? Yes.
  2. Can STEM OPT student get training from the Client’s employees? No.

But, Wait! that what we are doing now!

Yes. Correct.  this update is to reverse the website only update from April 2018. And there is more clarity from the USCIS on what’s allowed and what’s not allowed for STEM OPT students working at third-party client sites as contractors.

The Bottomline:

It’s good news for F-1 students on STEM OPT working at the client site. You know what you can do and what you can’t in black and white.

If you get an RFE during your STEM OPT Extension and/or H-1B Visa application related to the STEM OPT training plan, bonafide employer-employee relationship, please work with your Immigration Attorney to draft a solid reply. Kudos to USCIS  for making it clear on what’s allowed and not allowed.


  1. yuxin wang on December 6, 2019 at 5:02 PM

    I have the same situation here. the staffing agency and the company I actually work for, both of them do not want to give me an E-verify number, which I required to apply for OPT extension. They said they can’t break the law. The things happened been back and forth for 3 months. And my EAD card will expire on 1/6/2020. I ask an attorney about it today. Attorney said it is no way to get the E-verify number at least these companies want to give you. I feel so upset and lots of presure and it is kind of no hope for me to find a company willing hire me in 2 weeks.
    So STEM students try to get hire directly without staffing agency!!

    • Raghuram Sukumar on December 10, 2019 at 11:53 AM

      That’s not good. Employers should know when hiring F1 OPT students and maybe students should ask this much early during the OPT. What is your plan b?

  2. Siva on August 7, 2019 at 2:52 PM

    I’m an employee of company A, working as a contractor at company B.

    In my I-983 my employer (i.e. Company A) has mentioned that “employee will be reviewed on weekly basis while working at client location”. But no one from my company (i.e. Company A) work at the client location (i.e. company B) that I work. All monitoring is done remotely.

    Is this acceptable situation.

    • Gunjan on March 22, 2020 at 8:55 PM

      Hello, Did you get OPT extension?

  3. Xyz on May 9, 2019 at 3:48 PM

    This is a scenario. I am working at a company A since the start of my STEM OPT , and contracted by a staffing agency A. I completed one year at company A hired by staffing agency A, it is now time to apply for STEM extension to continue working for company A. Now there is staffing agency B that employs me (because it has to be e-verified) and allows me to continue working for Company A. Is this valid? Does this new rule apply to me? The company A is signing the form i-983 for me as they are one’s to give me practical training. But the employer name is staffing agency B. I do not know if this is valid?

    • Gunjan on March 22, 2020 at 8:54 PM

      Did you get STEM OPT extension?

  4. Majid on December 22, 2018 at 10:34 PM

    I am in a very urgent circumstances. I was wondering if someone could help.
    I work with a very well known company whose employees mainly are working remotely from home or third part place. I as OPT Extension student also was offered to work remotely from home. I am always get provided by allocated online trainings and also I am supervised remotely by my manager through Skype. Now, I want to know if I am allowed to work from home (remotely) or I have to work at business place.

  5. BK on November 30, 2018 at 5:26 PM

    If I put someone on a STEM Extension (who is an employee of my company) onsite at my client along with others who will support the training requirement (team of 1-2 others lets say), can the hours that the STEM employee puts in on behalf of my client (and in support of the training requirement) be billed?

  6. Confused Stem Opt Applicant on August 31, 2018 at 7:02 PM

    Since HR from staffing agency cannot train you , a contractor for the same staffing agency and working at the same location as yours train you ?

    • Raghuram Sukumar on September 2, 2018 at 8:05 AM

      As per the wordings, the contractor should be employed by your employer, not the client. Then Yes.

  7. Hoosier on August 18, 2018 at 12:27 PM

    The USCIS deserves absolutely no praise for essentially nullifying its deceptive and shameful act, which shook the foundation of many people (students and DSOs alike) in this situation.

  8. Confused Stem Opt Applicant on August 17, 2018 at 6:49 PM

    So are you allowed to work on clients location if you are a full term contractor for a staffing agency ? Any help would be appreciated !

    • Raghuram Sukumar on August 18, 2018 at 12:52 PM

      Who is training you at the client location?

      • F1 OPT Guy on September 27, 2018 at 4:36 PM

        I work for Company A (which is a staffing firm)
        Company A places me in Company B (so now I become a contractor at Company B)
        I am being trained by a Full Time Employee in Company B

        Is that allowed or not?

        • Raghuram Sukumar on September 28, 2018 at 10:54 AM

          As per the USCIS description, your scenario is not considered valid.

          An employee (or contractor) of Company A working at Company B should be training you.

          • Jay on August 7, 2019 at 5:56 PM

            I have the same scenario. Contractor of A working for B training me. Is this still valid if I have filed for STEM extension? I have not yet received an approval for the extension yet.

          • Aman on October 3, 2019 at 8:47 PM

            Any updates @jay?

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.