Stakeholders request more guidance about the responsibilities designated school officials (DSOs) have in reviewing and approving of the Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.”
Specifically, they want more clarification from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program about whether DSOs have the responsibility to evaluate the quality of a student’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) optional practical training (OPT) training opportunity when evaluating the form.
When the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its final rule on the STEM OPT extension in March 2016, Study in the States launched the STEM OPT Hub to help school officials, F-1 STEM students and interested employers understand the new regulation.
On the STEM OPT Hub, DSOs can find an entire section dedicated to explaining the new Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.” The hub also includes information specifically for DSOs explaining their reporting requirements and guidance for recommending STEM OPT. These resources specifically explain that DSOs:
- Are required to review students’ Form I-983 for completeness. This means that DSOs must ensure all questions on the form are answered and that the form is signed by the potential STEM OPT employer and the student.
- Are not required to conduct additional outside research into an employer prior to making a STEM OPT recommendation.
- Are not expected to possess technical knowledge of STEM fields of study.
In April 2016, a month before the rule was set to go into effect, SEVP hosted the SEVP Special Report: STEM OPT Webinar. During the webinar SEVP representatives explained the STEM OPT regulation and answered stakeholder questions regarding the new requirements, including the Form I-983.
In October 2016, SEVP held an SEVP Ask the Experts Webinar that focused exclusively on the Form I-983 life cycle and the specific responsibilities held by students, DSOs and employers. During the webinar, SEVP representatives responded to live questions from DSOs regarding their role in reviewing and approving the Form I-983.
SEVP also added several new resources to the SEVIS Help Hub when the rule went into effect to further assist DSOs in capturing the technical requirements. DSOs can find many of the applicable resources in the SEVIS Release 6.26 Planning Guide, including:
- A planning tool for 24-month extension of STEM OPT, which identifies eligibility, filing deadlines and information needed for the extension.
- A demonstration for recommending the STEM OPT extension.
- A STEM OPT Rule Implementation resource page.
SEVP will continue to evaluate the need to communicate on topics related to the regulatory requirements of the STEM OPT extension and the DSO’s role in it.
The timeline below illustrates the steps taken to communicate SEVP's progress to date.