On May 10, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security put into effect significant changes to post-graduation employment process for international students in STEM (Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Technology) Fields, including the addition of reporting requirements for employers, salary guidelines and potential onsite visits by Department of Homeland Security agents.
International students are eligible for a work benefit in the U.S. called Optional Practical Training, or “OPT”. This work benefit grants international students 12 months of work in the U.S. relating to their field of study. Students who have earned designated U.S. degrees with eligible Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) codes in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are allowed an additional 24 months of OPT. Under this STEM extension of the OPT period, there are some requirements for you as the employer, and the International and Postdoctoral Services at the Augusta University is here to assist you with any questions you may have.
Form I-983 serves as a work training plan that must be developed and signed by the student and the employer. This form is then given to the student’s F-1 program manager known as the Designated School Official, as evidence of the student’s valid STEM OPT employment. Please note, students must be employed a minimum of 20 hours a week to qualify for the STEM OPT extension.
Form I-983 requires official employer attestation that the student on the STEM OPT extension will not replace a full-time or part-time temporary or permanent U.S. worker. The employer must also certify that that the terms and conditions of the STEM OPT opportunity are commensurate with similarly situated U.S. workers.
The student is required to do two self-evaluations of his or her progress in achieving the goals of the training plan: one in the first year of the OPT extension, and one at the completion of the STEM OPT period. The STEM OPT employer must review the student’s evaluation and sign it to attest to its accuracy.
Employers must work with the STEM OPT student to report to our office any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student’s formal training plan, by filling out a new Form I-983.
The employer and student both must notify the DSO when the student’s employment is terminated for any reason before the end of the authorized OPT extension period. The employer must report such a change in employment to the appropriate DSO no later than five business days after the student’s employment terminates or the student has departed the U.S.
A new provision in the STEM OPT rule allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to visit employers who have hired STEM OPT students, in order to confirm that the student is adhering to the signed training plan. In most cases, DHS will provide notice to the employer at least 48 hours in advance of any site visit. For more information, see the DHS Study in the States website. Please note, IPSO has been advised that site audits by ICE agents are happening with increasing frequency.
As the Department of Homeland Security will visit the hiring department as the site of employment, it is imperative that the department administrator who facilitated the hire of student maintain an active and current copy of the student’s I-983 form in the personnel file for inspection and review. The sponsoring faculty or supervisor is responsible for immediately notifying the department administrator of any material change to the student’s employment.
Employers play a key role in maintaining and strengthening the integrity of the STEM OPT extension program. Although compliance with the program’s various reporting requirements predominately apply to students and sponsoring schools, there are instances where STEM OPT employers must assist in tracking the STEM OPT students and their practical training progress.
Should there be any concerns or questions, please feel free to contact the International and Postdoctoral Services Office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to also visit the Study in the States STEM OPT FAQS.
Please see the step-by-step instructions on completing the Form I-983 and IPSO's STEM OPT compliance form.