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DSOs: STEM OPT Reporting Requirements

While the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) does not contain functionality for all STEM OPT extension provisions, as of May 13, 2016, it does include updated functionality that allows DSOs to recommend STEM extensions for eligible students.

SEVP continues to develop the additional functionality needed to fully implement the STEM OPT extension. SEVP will communicate how to properly capture STEM OPT requirements in SEVIS while functionality is being developed.

For more detailed information about current SEVIS functionality and workarounds related to STEM OPT, watch the recording of the SEVIS Workarounds for STEM OPT webinar.

Reporting Responsibility

The DSO at the student’s school of most recent enrollment remains responsible for providing the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) with access to the relevant information described in the Form I-983 upon request, as well as the student’s SEVIS record, even if the student intends to request an extension based on a previously obtained STEM degree from another SEVP-certified school.

While the responsibility to report most information related to a student’s STEM OPT extension rests primarily with the student or employer, the student’s DSO remains responsible for continuing to help track the student in SEVIS and for providing DHS with timely access to reported information.

Determining Completeness of the Form I-983

Before the DSO recommends that a student be granted a STEM OPT extension, the DSO must confirm that the student’s Form I-983, "Training Plan for STEM OPT Students,” is complete and signed, and that it addresses all program requirements.

The DSO may not recommend a student for a STEM OPT extension if:

  • The employer has not provided the required attestations.
  • The completed Form I-983 does not reflect compliance with the relevant reporting, evaluation and other STEM OPT extension requirements.

The DSO is not required to conduct additional outside research into a particular employer prior to making a STEM OPT recommendation, and is also not expected to possess technical knowledge of STEM fields of study. For more information about how to evaluate the Form I-983, please visit our DSOs and the Form I-983 page.

Validation of Student SEVIS Information

A STEM OPT student must report to their DSO to confirm the validity of certain SEVIS information every six months, starting from the date the extension begins and ending when the student’s F-1 status ends or the 24-month OPT extension ends, whichever is first.

As part of such reporting, STEM OPT students must confirm the validity of the following information:

  • Legal name.
  • Residential or mailing address.
  • Employer name and address.
  • Status of current employment/practical training experience.

Separately, STEM OPT students must also report changes to this information within 10 days of the change, including any loss of employment.

Record Keeping for the Form I-983

The DSO is responsible for keeping and storing the Form I-983 and self-evaluations in the student’s record. The DSO may retain these documents in either electronic or hard copy, and they must be accessible to DHS within 30 days of submission to the DSO by the student. 

Accordingly, DHS may request a copy of the Form I-983, in addition to other documentation, from the student, the employer or the student’s DSO. For more information about the annual self-evaluation, please visit our Form I-983 resources.

Additionally, the student and employer are obligated to report to the student’s DSO any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student’s formal training plan by submitting a new Form I-983. For more information about what constitutes a material change, please visit the DSOs and the Form I-983 resource page.

Loss of Employment

The employer and student must notify the relevant DSO when the student’s employment is terminated for any reason before the end of the authorized 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.

An employer shall consider a student’s departure date as either:

  • The date the employer knows the student has left the practical training opportunity.
    OR
  • The date after five consecutive business days have elapsed and the student has not reported for their practical training (without the employer’s consent), whichever date is earlier.

The student must also report this change of employment information to the DSO within 10 days of the change.

Employers and students can satisfy these requirements, if they wish, with an email to the DSO indicating that the student was terminated or has otherwise departed and indicating the applicable date of such termination or departure.

Changing Employers

When a student changes employers, the new employer must be enrolled in E-Verify before the student begins to work for pay. The student must also submit a new Form I-983 to their DSO, and the DSO must review it for completeness and update SEVIS with a new recommendation. The STEM OPT student must submit this new Form I-983 to their DSO within 10 days of starting the new practical training opportunity.

When a student begins a new practical training opportunity with a new employer less than 10 days after leaving the student’s prior employer, the student may fulfill all reporting obligations (loss of employment and new training plan) by submitting a new Form I-983. In cases where the period of time between employers is longer than 10 days, the student must first report the loss of employment to the DSO and later submit a new Form I-983.

Employer Noncompliance

If a DSO believes that their STEM OPT student’s employer is not complying with the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, Form I-983 instructions and completed Form I-983, the DSO may contact SEVP at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by following the instructions on ICE.gov. Additionally, violations of the regulation may also be reported through this Homeland Security Investigations tip form.

Please note that if a student believes that their employer is not complying with the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations and Form I-983 instructions, the student should leave that practical training opportunity and report their unemployment to the DSO. The student should be encouraged to report the employer’s noncompliance to SEVP at ICE by following the instructions found on ICE.gov. The student should also be assured that a period of unemployment caused by an employer’s noncompliance with the terms and conditions of the STEM OPT extension program requirements on its own will not affect the STEM OPT student’s status, so long as the student reports changes in employment status and adheres to the overall unemployment limits.

Future SEVIS Enhancement

DHS expects to incorporate enhancements to SEVIS that will enable students to submit their Form I-983 electronically into the system. The proposed SEVIS portal will allow students to directly input their training plan into SEVIS for DSO review, thereby reducing burdens on DSOs and their institutions.

DHS plans to have the first stages of this portal operational by the beginning of 2017. Until that time, the DSO at the student’s most recent SEVP-certified school is responsible for maintaining the student’s Form I-983.

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