The New 24-Month STEM OPT Extension: How to qualify and who will be affected?


[The first part of the article can be found here; the second part here]

Employer Responsibilities
Although the new STEM OPT extension may seem like good news for students, it may also seem like a sugarcoated pill for employers. Employers employing students under the new rule will now be subject to the following responsibilities:

  • Be enrolled in E-Verify and remain in good standing.
  • Report material changes to the STEM OPT student’s employment 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.
  • Complete the Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. In this form, you must attest that:
    • You 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 you will help the student attain his or her training objectives./li>

Additionally, as always, employers must be aware of the fact that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may visit the worksite(s) to verify the STEM OPT program requirements are met, including whether the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences for the STEM OPT student are maintained.

The formal training program may hinder IT staffing companies from moving forward with their employment of F-1 STEM OP students as the formal training program has its own set of requirements. The training program will require the following types of information:

  • Details about the tasks and assignments the student will carry out during the training opportunity and how those tasks relate to the student’s STEM degree;
  • A description of the specific skills, knowledge and techniques the student will learn to apply and an explanation as to how the student will achieve the goals set out for the training opportunity;
  • A training curriculum and timeline;
  • An explanation about how the employer will provide oversight and supervision of the STEM OPT student; and
  • Measures and assessments the employer will use to confirm that the STEM OPT student is acquiring new knowledge and skills.

Additionally, amongst other attestations, the employer must attest to the following statements:

  • The student’s practical training opportunity is directly related to the STEM degree that qualifies the student for the STEM OPT extension, and the position offered to the student achieves the objectives of his or her participation in this training program;
  • The student will received on-site supervision and training, consistent with this plan, by experienced and knowledgeable staff;
  • The employer has sufficient resources and personnel to provide the specified training program set forth in this plan and the employer is prepared to implement that program, including at the work-site locations;
  • The terms and conditions of the STEM OPT – including duties, hours, and compensation – are commensurate with the terms and conditions applicable to the employer’s similarly situation U.S. workers.

Given the additional requirements employers must now adhere to, employers may opt to hire non-OPT students. It makes you wonder who this new rule is really benefiting. Employers may want to seek the advice of their counsel to ensure compliance.

Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Damini M. Patel Damini M. Patel, Esq is an associate attorney at the Nair Law Group, a law firm practicing exclusively in the area of US Immigration and Nationality law. The firm represents business and corporate clients in all matters of employment-based immigration.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.