Most employers are aware that F-1 graduates with a STEM degree qualify for a 24-month STEM OPT extension, provided they work for E-Verify employers. F-1 graduates who need to apply for their 24-month STEM OPT must obtain a Form I-983 Training Plan completed and signed by the employer. Form I-983 details the company’s training plan and certifies that it will adhere to the reporting obligations.
After STEM OPT is approved, however, employers often overlook their reporting obligations.
Material Change to Training Plan
The employer and the STEM graduate share the obligation to report material changes to the training plan, by submitting a new Form I-983 to the DSO. Material changes may include, but are not limited to:
- Any change of Employer Identification Number resulting from a corporate restructuring.
- Any reduction in 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.
Additionally, if the training/employment is terminated before the end of the authorized period, the employer must report such a change to the DSO no later than five business days after the graduate’s employment terminates or the graduate has departed.
Change of Employer
If an employer hires an F-1 graduate already holding a STEM OPT extension, the new employer must complete its own Form I-983 attesting to its training program, and the F-1 graduate must submit it to the DSO within 10 days of starting the new practical training opportunity.
Employers are obligated to review and sign annual self-evaluations completed by STEM OPT trainees (i.e., an initial evaluation during the first 12-month and a final evaluation prior to completion of the STEM OPT training).
Notify ILG of All F-1 Hires
To comply with these reporting obligations, employers are advised to notify ILG of all F-1 hires. By making ILG aware of your F-1 graduates, we can provide important services and reminders, including:
- completing I-983 for STEM OPT applicants;
- completing I-983 for new hires already holding STEM OPT;
- completing I-983 to reflect material changes;
- complying with the duty to submit annual evaluations; and
- adding the F-1 graduate to the list of individuals the employer may want to file H-1B for.
Contact your ILG attorney if you have questions regarding the hiring of F-1 students/graduates on CPT, OPT, or STEM OPT, or the I-983 training plan.