The 2016 final rule that reinstates the 24-month STEM OPT regulations increases the educational benefits that F-1 students receive from their practical training experiences by requiring the submission of a formal training plan.
The formal training plan must clearly articulate the STEM OPT student’s learning objectives and affirm the employer’s commitment to helping the student achieve those objectives. To fulfill this requirement, a student and their employer must complete and sign Form I-983 and submit it to the student’s DSO.
STEM OPT students and their employers are subject to the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, the Form I-983 instructions and the completed Form I-983, effective as of the employment start date requested for the associated STEM OPT period, as indicated on the Form I-983.
STEM OPT students may participate in entrepreneurial ventures where the student is an employee. However, they may not act as their own employer or as the signatory for the employer for the purposes of the form.
- Form I-983 Instructions
A STEM OPT student and their employer must obtain, complete and sign the Form I-983 before the student may apply for a STEM OPT extension.
The STEM OPT student and their employer must work together to complete the Form I-983. A properly completed Form I-983 must explain:
- How the practical training directly relates to the student’s qualifying STEM degree.
- The specific goals of the STEM practical training opportunity.
- How those goals will be achieved through the work-based learning opportunity with the employer, including details of the knowledge, skills or techniques to be imparted to the STEM OPT student.
- The performance evaluation process.
- The methods of oversight and supervision of the STEM OPT student.
The formal training plan documented in the Form I-983 must also establish that:
- The employer has sufficient resources and personnel available to provide appropriate training in connection with the specified opportunity and is prepared to implement the work-based learning opportunity at the locations identified.
- The STEM OPT student will not replace a full-time or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker.
- The opportunity assists the student in attaining their training goals.
- The duties, hours and compensation associated with the student’s STEM OPT position are commensurate with those provided to the employer’s similarly situated U.S. workers in the area of employment.
If the employer does not employ and has not recently employed more than two similarly situated U.S. workers, the training plan must include the employer’s affirmation of commensurate terms and conditions for the student’s position with those of employment for other similarly situated U.S. workers in the area of employment.
After the student and employer complete the necessary sections, the STEM OPT student must submit their completed and signed Form I-983 to their DSO. The student’s DSO will keep the completed form in the student’s record. For more information about how to complete this form, visit the Form I-983 resource pages for students, school officials and employers.
- Material Changes to the Form I-983
Both STEM OPT students and employers are obligated to report to the DSO material changes to, or material deviations from, the student’s formal training plan.
Material changes or deviations may include, but are not limited to:
- Any change of the employer’s Employer Identification Number, (i.e., the company’s Federal Tax ID number) resulting from a change in the employer’s ownership or structure.
- Any reduction in student compensation 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.
- Changes to the employer’s commitments or student’s learning objectives as documented on the Form I-983.
So long as the STEM OPT student and employer meet the regulatory requirements and the modified Form I-983 meets the specified requirements, the student’s employment authorization will not cease based on a change to the plan.
- Evaluation of Student Progress
The evaluation of a STEM OPT student’s training progress is a shared responsibility of both the student and the employer.
The STEM OPT student is responsible for conducting an annual self-evaluation based on their own progress. The student must submit 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 appropriate 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 Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students,” and may jeopardize the student’s nonimmigrant status.
The employer must review and sign the self-evaluation to verify its accuracy. Although not required, employers may elect to attach and submit their own evaluation of a student’s progress. Once completed and signed by the appropriate individual in the employer’s organization, the STEM OPT student must return the “Evaluation of Student Progress” to their DSO, who will keep it in the student’s record.
For more information on the STEM OPT extension training requirement, visit the Form I-983 resource pages for students, school officials and employers.