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STEM OPT Extension

STEM OPT Hub
STEM OPT Hub

Visit the Department of Homeland Security: Study in the States - STEM OPT Hubwhich includes:

  • Determining STEM OPT Extension Eligibility
  • STEM OPT Reporting Requirements
  • Transition Plan Overview for STEM OPT
  • Guide to complete Training Plan Form I-983

Please note:

International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) offers best practices information on STEM OPT Extension as a courtesy to international students under a Texas State University issued Form I-20. All information provided is not considered legal advice. 


General Overview

  • 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 application no later than the expiration date of the original OPT.
  • Applicant must be working on unexpired post-completion OPT.
  • Applicant must be working for an E-Verify employer. USCIS has created an online E-Verify Employer Search Tool.
  • The primary major CIP code, found on the I-20, should be on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List.
  • Applicant may work up to 180 days beyond the expiration date of their EAD while the STEM application is pending with USCIS.

USCIS processing times for the Form I-765 may vary. Please review Check Case Processing Times


Review the following information carefully:


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.

Frequently Asked Questions on E-Verify:

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  • 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

USCIS revised its USCIS STEM OPT Page - Employer-Employee Relationship, Site of Employment, Third Parties, taking a more severe interpretation of the employer-employee relationship "requirement" and conditions for third party placements, for STEM OPT students and employers.

  • 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.