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Frequently Asked Questions

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  • A student may file for the 24-month extension up to 90 days prior to the end date of post-completion OPT.

    USCIS must receive the student's STEM OPT application package before the expiration of the student's current post-completion OPT (standard post-completion or cap-gap), and no later than 60 days from the date the DSO recommended the benefit in SEVIS. The STEM OPT application package includes: Form I-765, I-765 filing fee, Form I-20 with the 24-month STEM OPT recommendation, and documentation of the qualifying STEM degree.

  • Yes, but all the employers must be enrolled in E-Verify and ISSS must receive a new Form I-983 for each employer.

    Each employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and have an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN); DHS says that there must be a "bona fide employer-employee" relationship, and that student may not be self-employed.

  • Review: H-1B Cap-Gap Extension

    You may request a cap-gap I-20 here: New OPT I-20 Request Form

  • Please contact ISSS for assistance with the RFE.

  • Yes, if the following are true:

    • You received the previous degree no more than 10 years prior to the date STEM OPT is recommended by the DSO
    • Your prior degree is STEM eligible and from an SEVP-certified US institution
    • You must be on approved post-completion OPT
    • Your work must be related to your previously awarded STEM degree
  • No. Your employment must be a paid job, for at least 20 hours per week at each STEM employer.
    • For F-1 students currently maintaining status under the H-1B “Cap-Gap” extension, lengthy H-1B processing times are more likely to result in a lapse in work authorization as H-1B visa approvals become less likely to arrive via mail by October 1.
    • Students in F-1 status who have been pursuing employment through valid Optional Practical Training (OPT) must stop their employment in the United States after October 1 until their H-1B petitions are approved.
    • Travel outside the U.S. after an H-1B petition is filed is not recommended for any applicant requesting an initial change of status to H-1B classification.
    • Travel during this time frame may revoke Cap-Gap privileges, including legal work status for F-1/OPT students and could give rise to a determination by USCIS that the candidate abandoned their H-1B petition.
  • Yes, please refer to the following regulations:

    8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(C) and 8 CFR 247a.12(c)(6)(iv):

    A student who has timely filed an application for a 24-month STEM OPT extension with USCIS may work for the STEM OPT employer while the STEM extension application is pending, for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of his or her prior post-completion OPT EAD.

    If a STEM OPT application is still pending more than 180 days beyond the expiration of the student's regular or cap-gap OPT, the student must stop working. Employment after day 180 is not authorized under 8 CFR 274a.12(b)(6)(iv) if USCIS has not adjudicated the STEM OPT application by day 180.

  • The CIP code on your I-20 degree's major field of study must appear on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List. Degree must be from an accredited, SEVP-certified, U.S. institution of higher education.

  • Please see the attached SEVP OPT Policy Guidance for more information and examples on determining the direct relationship between employment and a student’s major.

  • Students on STEM OPT are not eligible for the student health insurance plan offered by Texas State University. In most cases, students on STEM OPT are provided health insurance by their employer.

    Alternative, students may choose to enroll in health insurance coverage by purchasing an individual plan.


E-Verify

Review: What is E-Verify

E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the US and to ensure legal workforce.

E-Verify confirms employment eligibility by comparing the information an employee enters in the Form I-9, “Employment Eligibility Verification" to DHS and Social Security Administration records.

Review the E-Verify Frequently Asked Questions below. 

  • Yes, in order to apply for STEM OPT your employer must be e-verified. If you switch employer while your STEM OPT is pending, the new employer must be e-verified and a new I-20 must be created. Contact ISSS if you switch employer.

  • After the employer creates a case in E-Verify and enters information from the student’s Form I-9, E-Verify displays a case result within seconds. Sometimes, E-Verify may display a case result that requires additional action. When this happens, it is called an E-Verify tentative noncomfirmation (TNC). A TNC means the information entered by the employer from the student’s Form I-9 does not match government records.

    Nonimmigrant students have many rights during the TNC process, including the right to contest the TNC and the right not to incur adverse actions because of the TNC. For more information, visit the USCIS Employee Rights Toolkit.

    Please visit the USCIS website for tips on how to avoid receiving a TNC. These tips include ensuring the name on a student’s Form I-9 matches the name on the student’s other official government documents.

  • myE-Verify is a free resource that nonimmigrant students can use at any time. myE-Verify’s Self Check feature enables students to confirm that government records are accurate. myE-Verify’s Self Lock feature enables students to lock their Social Security number in the E-Verify system to help protect against employment-related identity fraud.

    If a student uses these services and finds an error in their record, E-Verify provides guidance on the steps the student should take to correct the record.

    For more information about the E-Verify employment eligibility verification program, download the USCIS fact sheets and web pages listed in the additional resources section below.

    If you are an international student and have case-specific questions about your status in E-Verify, please call the E-Verify Employee Hotline at 1-888-897-7781.


STEM OPT and Third Party Placements

For more information refer to the following websites:

  1. USCIS STEM OPT website (highlights be posted below)
  2. Study in the States

From the Study in the States website, "F-1 students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Form I-983 because F-1 students may not provide the employer attestation (i.e., signatures) on their own behalf. However, they may use a start-up business so long as all regulatory requirements are met. The employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience."

  • Per USCIS: STEM OPT Employer Requirements and Responsibilities:

    If you are an employer who wants to provide a practical training opportunity to a STEM OPT student during their extension, you must:

    • Be enrolled in E-Verify, as evidenced by either a valid E-Verify company identification number or, if the employer is using an employer agent to create its E-Verify cases, a valid E-Verify client company identification number.
    • Remain a participant in good standing with E-Verify, as determined by USCIS.
    • Have a valid Employer Identification Number (EIN) issued by the Internal Revenue Service for tax purposes.
    • Report material changes of the STEM OPT student’s employment by submitting a modified Form I-983 to the DSO at the earliest available opportunity.
    • Report the STEM OPT student’s termination of employment or departure to the DSO within 5 business days.
    • Implement a formal training program to augment the student’s academic learning through practical experience.
    • Provide an OPT opportunity that is commensurate with those of similarly situated U.S. workers in duties, hours, and compensation.
  • Per USCIS: Terms and Conditions for Employer Participation:

    To ensure the integrity of the program and provide safeguards for U.S. workers, any employer wishing to employ a student participating in the STEM OPT extension program must ensure that:

    • The employer will have and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student.
    • The employer has sufficient resources and personnel available to provide appropriate training in connection with the specified opportunity at the location(s) specified in the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.
    • The STEM OPT student will not replace a full- or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker.
    • The training opportunity will assist the student in attaining his or her training goals. DHS may, at its discretion, conduct a site visit of the employer to ensure that program requirements are being met, including that the employer possesses and maintains the ability, personnel, and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences consistent with the training plan.
  • Per USCIS: The Employer’s Training Obligation:

    "As noted above, to be eligible to employ a STEM OPT student, an employer must have and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. The employer must attest to this fact by signing the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. To establish a bona fide relationship, the employer may not be the student’s “employer” in name only, nor may the student work for the employer on a “volunteer” basis. Moreover, the employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student.

    An employer must have sufficient resources and trained or supervisory personnel available to provide appropriate training in connection with the specified training opportunity at the location(s) where the student’s practical training experience will take place, as specified in the Form I-983. The “personnel” who may provide and supervise the training experience may be either employees of the employer, or contractors who the employer has directly retained to provide services to the employer; they may not, however, be employees or contractors of the employer’s clients or customers. Additionally, under no circumstances would another F-1 student with OPT or a STEM OPT extension (who is undergoing training in their own right) be qualified to train another F-1 student with a STEM OPT extension.

    While employers may rely on their existing training programs or policies to satisfy the requirements relating to performance evaluation and oversight and supervision, the student’s Training Plan must nevertheless be customized for the individual student. For instance, every Training Plan must describe the direct relationship between the STEM OPT opportunity and the student’s qualifying STEM degree, as well as the relationship between the STEM OPT opportunity and the student’s goals and objectives for work-based learning. Moreover, a STEM OPT employer may not assign, or otherwise delegate, its training responsibilities to a non-employer third party (e.g., a client/customer of the employer, employees of the client/customer, or contractors of the client/customer).

    As noted above, DHS, at its discretion, may conduct a site visit of any STEM OPT employer to ensure that the employer possesses and maintains the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences consistent with the Form I-983. See 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(C)(11). Consistent with this provision, during a site visit, DHS may verify that the employer that signs the Form I-983 is the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student and ensure compliance. For ICE to effectively conduct these site visits as part of its oversight responsibilities, it is important that employers report any change in a student’s employment address. As indicated above, the employer and student must report such a material change by submitting a modified Form I-983 to the DSO at the earliest available opportunity."

  • Per USCIS: The Employer’s Training Obligation: Staffing and Temporary Agencies

    Staffing and temporary agencies and consulting firms may seek to employ students under the STEM OPT program, but only if they will be the entity that provides the practical training experience to the student and they have and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. STEM OPT participants may engage in a training experience that takes place at a site other than the employer’s principal place of business as long as all of the training obligations are met, including that the employer has and maintains a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. Certain types of arrangements, including multiple employer arrangements, sole proprietorships, employment through ‘‘temp’’ agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, and other similar relationships may not be able to demonstrate a bona fide employer-employee relationship and, therefore, may not meet the requirements of the STEM OPT extension.

    As part of the STEM OPT extension, employers must complete the appropriate parts of Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. In this form, employers attest that:

    • They have enough resources and trained personnel available to appropriately train the student;
    • The student will not replace a full- or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker; and
    • Working for them will help the student attain their training objectives.

    DHS will review on a case-by-case basis whether the student will be a bona fide employee of the employer signing the training plan, and verify that the employer that signs the training plan is the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.

    For more information, please refer to the DHS STEM OPT Hub.

    The Employer’s Training Obligation

    As noted above, to be eligible to employ a STEM OPT student, an employer must have and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. The employer must attest to this fact by signing the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. To establish a bona fide relationship, the employer may not be the student’s “employer” in name only, nor may the student work for the employer on a “volunteer” basis. Moreover, the employer that signs the Form I-983 must be the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student. See 2016 STEM OPT Final Rule (pp. 13072, 13079).

    An employer must have sufficient resources and trained or supervisory personnel available to provide appropriate training in connection with the specified training opportunity at the location(s) where the student’s practical training experience will take place, as specified in the Form I-983. The “personnel” who may provide and supervise the training experience may be either employees of the employer, or contractors who the employer has directly retained to provide services to the employer; they may not, however, be employees or contractors of the employer’s clients or customers.  Additionally, under no circumstances would another F-1 student with OPT or a STEM OPT extension (who is undergoing training in their own right) be qualified to train another F-1 student with a STEM OPT extension. See 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(C)(10) and 2016 STEM OPT Final Rule (pp. 13041, 13042, 13065, 13079, 13080-81, 13119).

    While employers may rely on their existing training programs or policies to satisfy the requirements relating to performance evaluation and oversight and supervision, the student’s Training Plan must nevertheless be customized for the individual student. For instance, every Training Plan must describe the direct relationship between the STEM OPT opportunity and the student’s qualifying STEM degree, as well as the relationship between the STEM OPT opportunity and the student’s goals and objectives for work-based learning. Moreover, a STEM OPT employer may not assign, or otherwise delegate, its training responsibilities to a non-employer third party (e.g., a client/customer of the employer, employees of the client/customer, or contractors of the client/customer). See 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(C)(7)(ii) and 2016 STEM OPT Final Rule (pp. 13042, 13079, 13090, 13091, 13092, 13016).

    As noted above, DHS, at its discretion, may conduct a site visit of any STEM OPT employer to ensure that the employer possesses and maintains the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences consistent with the Form I-983. See 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(C)(11).  Consistent with this provision, during a site visit, DHS may verify that the employer that signs the Form I-983 is the same entity that provides the practical training experience to the student and ensure compliance with the 2016 STEM OPT Final Rule.  For ICE to effectively conduct these site visits as part of its oversight responsibilities, it is important that employers report any change in a student’s employment address.  As indicated above, the employer and student must report such a material change by submitting a modified Form I-983 to the DSO at the earliest available opportunity.

    The Employer’s Training Obligation: Staffing and Temporary Agencies

    Staffing and temporary agencies and consulting firms may seek to employ students under the STEM OPT program, but only if they will be the entity that provides the practical training experience to the student and they have and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. STEM OPT participants may engage in a training experience that takes place at a site other than the employer’s principal place of business as long as all of the training obligations are met, including that the employer has and maintains a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student.  As noted in the 2016 STEM OPT rule, certain types of arrangements, including multiple employer arrangements, sole proprietorships, employment through ‘‘temp’’ agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, and other similar relationships may not be able to demonstrate a bona fide employer-employee relationship and, therefore, may not meet the requirements of the STEM OPT extension. See 2016 STEM OPT Final Rule (p. 13079).    

    As part of the STEM OPT extension, employers must complete the appropriate parts of Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. In this form, employers attest that:

    • They have enough resources and trained personnel available to appropriately train the student;
    • The student will not replace a full- or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker; and
    • Working for them will help the student attain their training objectives.

    DHS will review on a case-by-case basis whether the student will be a bona fide employee of the employer signing the Training Plan, and verify that the employer that signs the Training Plan is the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.

    For more information, please refer to the DHS STEM OPT Hub.

    ISSS will only recommend a student for STEM OPT following the conditions mentioned above.