The US government made changes to the STEM OPT regulations that went into effect on May 10, 2016. These changes apply to any F-1 student who applies for or is approved for a STEM OPT extension after that date. The new regulations include additional reporting requirements for students, school officials, and employers.
The US government has provided helpful resources for employers on their STEM OPT Hub. We highly recommend that employers review these resources as they address many questions that employers may have about reporting requirements under the new regulations.
Employers will need to assist students with completing the Form I-983. The student should complete page 1 of the form. The remainder of the form should be completed by the student and employer together. Sections 1-6 of the form must be completed and signed by the student and employer before the student submits a request for a STEM OPT I-20 to us at the NYU Office of Global Services. The US government has provided specific instructions for employers on completing this form as well as a step-by-step tutorial for students and employers.
If there are any changes to a student’s employment, the student and employer must complete a new Form I-983 and the student must submit it to the OGS within 10 days of those changes. Changes in the plan can include (but are not limited to):
The student must complete and sign a self evaluation 12 months and 24 months after beginning the STEM OPT extension. The employer needs to sign it to confirm accuracy. The student is responsible for submitting this form to the OGS within 10 days of the applicable reporting period. This evaluation can be found on page 5 of Form I-983. Note: digital signatures are not accepted.
Once employment ends, the student must submit a final evaluation of student progress. This evaluation can be found on page 5 of Form I-983. It must be completed, signed, and dated by the student and employer based on the employment that has ended. The employer is required to sign it to confirm accuracy. The student is responsible for submitting the evaluation to OGS within 10 days of the applicable reporting period.
Employers are required to notify the OGS if a student’s employment is terminated prior to the end of their STEM OPT authorization. Employers must report this termination within 5 business days of the student’s employment termination. To report a student’s termination of employment, employers should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new STEM OPT regulations limit the types of employment that students can participate in during the STEM OPT extension. This regulation specifically prohibits students from working as volunteers or unpaid interns during the STEM OPT extension. Students who are self-employed are also ineligible for the STEM OPT extension under the new regulations and cannot sign Form I-983 as both the student and the employer. Students who work for a start-up company may be eligible for the STEM OPT extension if there is another individual who can sign Form I-983 as the employer and establish a bona fide employer/employee relationship. Students who work for a consulting firm or staffing agency should discuss their situation and eligibility with their employer to determine if a true employer/employee relationship exists in which the employer signing the training plan is also the employer that provides the practical training experience.
Please note that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) limits what information the OGS can disclose to employers. We can provide general information on the STEM OPT extension, but we cannot provide information to an employer that is specific to that student without their prior written consent. If a student wishes for us to discuss their employment eligibility or other aspects of their immigration record with their employer, the student must submit a completed document release form to OGS.
Employers should follow the USCIS I-9 guidance on the proper documentation to verify a student’s identity and employment authorization. According to USCIS, “an Unexpired EAD or Expired EAD presented with Form I-20 endorsed by the student’s Designated School Official (DSO)” is sufficient. For more information, review the USCIS I-9 webpage. Students with a pending STEM OPT application with USCIS are legally permitted to work for up to 180 days after the end date of the Post Completion OPT or until application adjudication, whichever comes sooner.