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24 Month Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM students (STEM OPT)

Eligibility:

To qualify for the 24 month extension you must:

  • Have been granted an OPT and be in a valid period of OPT
  • Earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree that is accreted by a U.S. Department of Education and is certified by Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)
  • Work for an employer who meets all the requirements
  • The employment must be directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.
  • Submit for I-765, Application for Employment Authorization

Note: You can also qualify for a 24-month extension on a prior STEM degree earned from a U.S. institution of higher education. However, you cannot have already received a STEM OPT extension based on that prior degree.

OPT students who currently have (or have an application pending on May 10, 2016) for a 17 month extension:

The new rule authorizing 24-month STEP OPT extension went into effect on May 10, 2016. If you were currently on a 17-month STEP OPT extension, you could apply to add 7 months to your STEM OPT period on or after May 10, 2016 as long as you have at least 150 days of valid employment authorization remaining on the date you properly file your new Form I-765.

Employer responsibilities:

  • Be enrolled in E-verify and remain in good standing
  • Report material changes regarding the STEM OPT student’s employment to the DSO within 5 business days
  • Implement a formal training program to promote the student’s academic learning through practical experience
  • Provide an OPT opportunity that is similar with those of similarly situated U.S. workers in duties, hours, and compensation.
  • Complete the Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT students”. This form establishes a formal training plan with the F-1 student. Form I-983 must be completed by the employer and F-1 student and submitted to the DSO. In the Form I-983, the Employer must state:
    • Student role: Describe what tasks and assignments will be carried out during the training and how these relate to the student’s STEM degree. The plan must cover a specific span of time, and detail specific goals and objectives. Describe the specific skills, knowledge, and techniques the student will learn or apply and how the student will achieve the goals set forth in his or her training and training curriculum during the timeline.
    • Goals and objectives: Describe the specific skills, knowledge, and techniques the student will learn or apply and how the student will achieve the goals set out for his or her training; and the training curriculum including the timeline.
    • Employer Oversight: Explain how the employer will provide oversight and supervision of individuals filling positions such as that being filed by the named F-1 student are acquiring new knowledge and skills. If the employer has a training program or related policy in place that controls such measures and assessments, please describe.
    • Measures and assessments: Explain how the employer measures and confirms whether individuals filing positions such as that being filled by the named F-1 student are acquiring new knowledge and skills.
    • The salary of the student must be commensurate with similarly related U.S. workers.
    • Please note: Form I-983, Section 1 must be completed and submitted to the student’s DSO. Sections 3-6 must be completed by the employer.
    • After 12 months, the employer needs to complete an assessment on Form I-983. After 24 months, the employer needs to complete a final assessment. This must be submitted to the DSO.
    • Report termination of employment to the DSO within 5 business days
    • Authorized signatory of the Employer must be familiar with the training plan and the

F-1 students’ goals and performances. The authorized signatory of the employer must affirm that the statements provided on the Form I-983 are true and correct.

  • Employer must attest to the following:
    • Employer has sufficient resources and personnel available to provide appropriate training in connection with the specified opportunity
    • The STEM OPT will not replace a part time or full time or permanent U.S. worker
    • Employment opportunity assists the students in attaining his or her training goals
  • Reporting to DSO when there are material changes to the Form I-983
    • Both STEM OPT students and employers are obligated to report to the DSO material changes in the student’s formal training plan:
      • Any change to the FEIN
      • Any reduction in student compensation unrelated to hours worked
      • Any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engaged in STEM training
      • Changes to the employer’s commitments of a student’s learning objectives as documented on the form I-983
      • Loss of employment must be reported no later than 5 business days after the student’s employment terminates.
  • Student Responsibilities:
    • Complete sections 1-2 of Form I-983 and submit to DSO.
    • Complete and submit 12 month and final evaluation to employer and DSO
    • Report material changes to DSO
    • Change in hours of employment reported no later than 10 days
  • Employer Site Visits by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement):
    • Random site may occur with a 48 hour advance notice
    • There may be no advanced notice for site visits triggered by a complaint/suspicion of noncompliance.
    • ICE can also request information regarding compliance through e-mail or phone before (or instead of) the site visit
    • Site visits will confirm the following:
      • Information reported on Form I-983 regarding the training program is accurate.
      • The employer has sufficient resources and supervisory personnel to effectively train the F-1 students.
      • Inspect STEM OPT compliance file regarding wage assessment of similarly situated U.S. workers

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