Information for STEM OPT Employers
If employing an F-1 student during their 24-month STEM OPT extension period, employers must meet all requirements of the STEM OPT regulations. The regulations include additional reporting requirements for students, school officials, and employers. The US government has provided helpful resources for employers on their STEM OPT Hub. It is recommended that employers review these resources as they address many questions that employers may have about reporting requirements under the STEM OPT regulations.
- The employer must be enrolled in and remain in good-standing with E-verify.
- Employer understands DHS may conduct site visits to employers where STEM OPT students are employed.
- The employer must implement a formal training plan, documented on Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, to strengthen the students’ academic learning through practical experience. Existing training plans may be utilized to meet this requirement.
- The employer must read and adhere to the guidelines given in the disclaimer in Section 4 of Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.
- The employer must have sufficient resources to provide appropriate training to the student.
- The employer must confirm that the student will not replace a full-time or part-time temporary or permanent U.S. worker.
- The employer must confirm that the training opportunity helps the student meet their training objectives.
- The employer must report changes to the student’s employment to the ISSO within 5 business days by sending an e-mail to [email protected]
- The student and employer must complete Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, outlining learning objectives and a plan to meet those objectives at the following intervals:
- Prior to submitting their STEM OPT application to the ISSO.
- 12 months from their STEM EAD start date and include a progress report on accomplishments and skills or knowledge obtained.
- If there are changes to or deviations from the student’s formal training plan.
- 24 months from their STEM EAD start date.
- F-1 students may no longer volunteer for an employer during the STEM OPT extension.
- Employment must be for at least 20 hours a week.
- The employment must be compensated.
- The employment must include a legitimate employer, employee relationship.
- The employment must be directly related to the STEM degree that the work authorization was based upon.
- A student is allowed to work for multiple employers while on a period of STEM OPT, however each employment must meet all of the student and employer requirements outlined above.
- For students who have timely filed for the STEM OPT extension, and whose EAD has expired, 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C) and 8 CFR 247a.12(c)(6)(iv) automatically extends the student’s work authorization for up to 180 days while the student’s 24-month extension application is pending.
Student and Employer Reporting Requirement
The student must submit a six month validation report on the OPT STEM Reporting Form.
- The student must submit a six month validation report on the OPT STEM Reporting Form.
- The student must submit a validation report on the OPT STEM Reporting Form every 6 months during the OPT STEM period. Student should report validation up to 15 days before due date and up to 31 days after due date.
- The student must report changes in employment status to the ISSO within 10 days of the change on the OPT STEM Reporting Form. Additionally, the employer must report changes to the student’s employment status to the ISSO within 5 business days by sending an e-mail to [email protected]
- The student and employer must complete Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, outlining learning objectives and a plan to meet those objectives prior to submitting their STEM OPT application to the ISSO.
- If the student adds or changes employers they must submit a new Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, to the ISSO.
- The student and employer must report changes to or deviations from the student’s formal training plan on Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT outlined above.
- Students and employers must additionally complete and submit to the ISSO, a 12 month evaluation and a 24 month final evaluation on Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. If the student leaves a job during the STEM OPT period, they must submit the final evaluation on Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.
- If a student neglects to submit Form I-983,, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students to the ISSO within 10 days of the conclusion of the reporting period they will be in violation of their F-1 status.
- For examples of documents to submit when reporting, review the STEM OPT Reporting chart.
- If the employer or employee is unwilling to comply with these regulations, either party may inform DHS by calling the Homeland Security Investigations Tip Line at 866-DHS-2-ICE or submitting HSI Tip Form.
Employers will need to assist students with completing the Form I-983,.The student should complete page 1 of the form. The remainder of the form should be completed by the student and employer together. Sections 1 - 6 of the form must be completed and signed by the student and employer before the student submits a request for a STEM OPT I-20. Homeland Security has provided specific instructions for employers on completing this form as well as a step-by-step tutorial for students and employers. If there are any changes to a student’s employment, the student and employer must complete a Form I-983 and the student must submit it to the ISSO within 10 days of those changes. Changes in the plan can include (but are not limited to):
- Any change of Employer Identification Number resulting from a corporate restructuring.
- Any reduction in compensation from the amount previously submitted on the Form I‐983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students,” that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked.
- Any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity.
- Any decrease in hours below the 20‐hours‐per‐week minimum required under this rule.
Special Employment Circumstances
The STEM OPT regulations limit the types of employment that students can participate in during the STEM OPT extension. This regulation specifically prohibits students from working as volunteers or unpaid interns during the STEM OPT extension. Students who are self-employed are also ineligible for the STEM OPT extension under the STEM regulations and cannot sign Form I-983 as both the student and the employer. Students who work for a start-up company may be eligible for the STEM OPT extension if there is another individual who can sign Form I-983 as the employer and establish a bona fide employer/employee relationship. Students who work for a consulting firm or staffing agency should discuss their situation and eligibility with their employer to determine if a true employer/employee relationship exists in which the employer signing the training plan is also the employer that provides the practical training experience.
Student Privacy and Disclosing Information to Employers
Please note that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) limits what information the ISSO can disclose to employers. The ISSO can provide general information on the STEM OPT extension, but cannot provide information to an employer that is specific to that student..
Verifying Work Authorization
Employers should follow the USCIS I-9 guidance on the proper documentation to verify a student’s identity and employment authorization. According to USCIS, “an Unexpired EAD or Expired EAD presented with Form I-20 endorsed by the student’s Designated School Official (DSO)” is sufficient. For more information, review the USCIS I-9 webpage.