New DHS Final Rule on Additional STEM Optional Practical Training, Effective May 10, 2016

The Department of Homeland Security has begun implementing the new, additional 24 months of F-1 Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) work authorization for foreign students with a STEM major. This is a major in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

What’s new?

  • New I-983 Form, Training Plan for STEM Students. – The employer and the student must complete and submit the form to the DSO (Designated School Official) for review and recommendation. The I-983 Training Plan requires an employer to make certain attestations, including: It has sufficient resources and trained personnel to provide appropriate training to the student;The student will not replace a full- or part-time, temporary, or permanent U.S. worker; andThe opportunity will help the student attain his or her training objectives.
  • The employer is expected to play an active role in ensuring the STEM OPT program’s integrity.
  • The student is required to complete a self-evaluation (which must be reviewed and signed by the employer) and submit it to the DSO annually.
  • The student and employer must report any material changes, termination, change in employer, or employee’s non-compliance (for example, there is no termination but the employee has not reported to work for five consecutive business days).
  • ICE may conduct site visits with 48 hours’ notice, except for site visits triggered by evidence of non-compliance, which are unannounced.
  • As of May 10, 2016, USCIS will no longer adjudicate pending 17-month STEM EAD applications. Instead, students should expect to receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS. Upon receipt, a student must work with his or her employer to complete an I-983, submit the completed I-983 to the school’s DSO, and obtain a new I-20 with 24-months STEM OPT recommendation. Students who have previously received a 17-month STEM OPT may apply for the additional 7 months STEM OPT if he or she meets the following requirements:
  • The student must have at least 150 calendar days remaining before his or her 17-month STEM OPT EAD expires at the time the I-765 Application for Employment Authorization is filed with USCIS;
  • The student must properly file an I-765 application with USCIS requesting the 7-month balance before August 8, 2016; and
  • The student must meet all of the requirements for the 24-month STEM OPT extension under the new rule, including, but not limited to, the submission of the I-983 Training Plan to his or her DSO.