DHS requires that the STEM OPT student and employer work together to complete the Form I-983. Properly completing this form will successfully document the relationship between the STEM OPT opportunity, the academic degree received and the learning objectives of the F-1 student.
STEM OPT students and their employers are subject to the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations and Form I-983 instructions, effective as of the start date requested for STEM OPT, as indicated on the form.
The STEM OPT student will obtain the Form I-983 online and is responsible for returning the completed and signed form to their DSO. DSOs are responsible for keeping the completed form in the student’s record. However, STEM OPT employers are responsible for completing Section 3 to Section 6 on the Form I-983 and must provide a signature on the STEM OPT student’s annual self-evaluation, also documented on the form.
Please note, employers may use existing training programs for evaluating the progress of STEM OPT students, so long as the existing training program meets DHS’s requirements as outlined on the Form I-983.
STEM OPT students may participate in entrepreneurial ventures. However, they may not fill out their own Form I-983, Sections 3 to 6, nor act as their own employer for the purposes of the form.
Section 3: Employer Information
In Section 3 of the Form I-983, employers must document specific information about the company and agreed upon practical training schedule and compensation.
Specifically in Section 3, the employer needs to document:
- Company name, mailing address and website.
- Company’s Employer Identification Number (EIN) (i.e., the company’s Federal Tax ID number) and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code.
NAICS codes are accessible on the U.S. census’s website.
- Number of full-time employees hired in the United States and if the company is classified as a Small Entity.
Visit the Small Business Administration’s website for more information about whether your company qualifies as a Small Entity (this determination is based on either the employer’s income level or number of employees, based on the industry).
- The student’s STEM OPT start date and the agreed-upon number of training hours per week.
Please note, in order to qualify for STEM OPT, the student must work a minimum of 20 hours per week.
- Information about compensation, including the dollar amount of salary, stipend and/or other compensation and the frequency of pay.
Other compensation may include housing, tuition waivers, transportation costs, etc. Remember, the compensation allocated to the STEM OPT student must be commensurate with that applicable to a similarly situated U.S. worker.
The term “similarly situated U.S. workers” includes U.S. workers performing similar duties and with similar educational backgrounds, employment experience, levels of responsibility and skill sets as the STEM OPT student. If the employer does not employ and has not recently employed more than two similarly situated U.S. workers, the employer must instead ensure that the terms and conditions of the STEM OPT opportunity they offer is commensurate with those similarly situated U.S. workers employed by other companies of analogous size and industry and in the same geographical area of employment.
Section 4: Employer Certification
In this section, the employer must attest 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, as explained above.
The employer must designate an Official with Signatory Authority for this certification. The Official with Signatory Authority must be familiar with the STEM OPT student’s goals and performance, as well as have the authority to affirm that the statements provided on the Form I-983 are true and correct.
Section 5: Training Plan for STEM OPT Students
In order to better ensure the academic benefit and integrity of the STEM OPT extension, each STEM OPT student needs to prepare and execute, with the prospective employer, a formal training plan that identifies learning objectives and a plan for achieving those objectives. The STEM OPT student and employer must work together to finalize the plan and document it in Section 5 of the form.
The following information must be included in the plan:
- Student’s name, exactly as it appears on their Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” and in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.
- Employer name, exactly as it appears in Section 3 of the Form I-983, and site name.
Please specify if the student’s practical training opportunity will take place at a branch, subsidiary or anywhere other than the company’s headquarters location.
- The specific STEM field of the training opportunity.
Please refer to this complete list of STEM codes to complete this portion of the plan.
- Contact information (i.e., name, title, email address and phone number) for the appropriate individual in the employer’s organization who is familiar with and will evaluate the student’s goals and performance.
- Details about the tasks and assignments the student will carry out during the training opportunity and how those tasks relate to the student’s STEM degree.
The plan must also describe the specific skills, knowledge and techniques the student will learn or apply and an explanation as to how the student will achieve the goals set out for the training opportunity. This description should include the training curriculum and timeline.
- Explanation about how the employer will provide oversight and supervision of the STEM OPT student.
If the employer has a training program or related policy in place that controls such oversight and supervision, a description of this program or policy may suffice to fulfill this requirement.
- Information about the measures and assessments the employer will use to confirm that the STEM OPT student is acquiring new knowledge and skills.
If the employer has a training program or related policy in place that controls such measures and assessments, a description of this program or policy may suffice to fulfill this requirement.
Section 6: Employer Official Certification
The individual who signs this section’s certification need not be, but can be, the same individual who signed the Employer Certification in Section 4. An employee who signs this section must have signatory authority for the employer and must affirm under penalty of perjury that the statements and information provided on the form are true and correct.
On the material change certification, please note that the material changes in the plan can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Any change of the company’s EIN (i.e., the company’s Federal Tax ID number) resulting from resulting from a change in the employer’s ownership or structure.
- Any nontrivial reduction in hours worked.
- Any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity.
- Any decrease in the hours below the minimum 20 hours per week required.
Evaluation on Student Progress
The student is responsible for conducting the annual self-evaluation on their own progress, and the employer must review this evaluation and sign it to attest to its accuracy.
Thus, the student evaluations are a shared responsibility of both the STEM OPT student and employer to ensure that the student’s practical training goals are being met satisfactorily. The student must return the signed self-evaluation back to their DSO, who will keep it in the student’s record.
The student submits the first assessment within 12 months of the STEM OPT start date, and a second, final assessment that recaps the training and knowledge acquired during the complete training period. The student must submit the 12-month and final evaluations no later than 10 days following the conclusion of the applicable reporting period. If an opportunity ends early the student must submit the final evaluation within 10 days following the conclusion of the opportunity. Not submitting a final evaluation would be a violation of the terms of the Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students,” and may jeopardize the student’s nonimmigrant status.