Guidance for departments employing F-1 OPT students in STEM fields:

On May 10, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security put into effect significant changes to post-graduation employment process for international students in STEM (Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Technology) Fields, including the addition of reporting requirements for employers, salary guidelines and potential onsite visits by Department of Homeland Security agents. International students are eligible for a work benefit in the U.S. called Optional Practical Training, or “OPT”. This work benefit grants international students 12 months of work in the U.S. relating to their field of study. Students who have earned designated U.S. degrees with eligible Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) codes in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are allowed an additional 24 months of OPT.

Under this STEM extension of the OPT period, there are some requirements for you as the employer, and the International and Postdoctoral Services at the Augusta University is here to assist you with any questions you may have. Form I-983 serves as a work training plan that must be developed and signed by the student and the employer. This form is then given to the student’s F-1 program manager known as the Designated School Official, as evidence of the student’s valid STEM OPT employment. Please note, students must be employed a minimum of 20 hours a week to qualify for the STEM OPT extension.

Protected U.S. Workers

Form I-983 requires official employer attestation that the student on the STEM OPT extension will not replace a full-time or part-time temporary or permanent U.S. worker. The employer must also certify that the terms and conditions of the STEM OPT opportunity are commensurate with similarly situated U.S. workers. 


Evaluation of Student Progress

The student is required to do two self-evaluations of his or her progress in achieving the goals of the training plan: one in the first year of the OPT extension, and one at the completion of the STEM OPT period. The STEM OPT employer must review the student’s evaluation and sign it to attest to its accuracy.


Material Changes to an Existing Form I-983

Employers must work with the STEM OPT student to report to our office any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student’s formal training plan, by filling out a new Form I-983. 


Loss of Employment

The employer and student both must notify the DSO when the student’s employment is terminated for any reason before the end of the authorized OPT extension period.  The employer must report such a change in employment to the appropriate DSO no later than five business days after the student’s employment terminates or the student has departed the U.S.


Employer Site Visits

A new provision in the STEM OPT rule allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to visit employers who have hired STEM OPT students, in order to confirm that the student is adhering to the signed training plan. In most cases, DHS will provide notice to the employer at least 48 hours in advance of any site visit. For more information, see the DHS Study in the States website.  Please note, IPSO has been advised that site audits by ICE agents are happening with increasing frequency.

As the Department of Homeland Security will visit the hiring department as the site of employment, it is imperative that the department administrator who facilitated the hire of the student maintain an active and current copy of the student’s I-983 form in the personnel file for inspection and review. The sponsoring faculty or supervisor is responsible for immediately notifying the department administrator of any material change to the student’s employment.

Employers play a key role in maintaining and strengthening the integrity of the STEM OPT extension program. Although compliance with the program’s various reporting requirements predominately apply to students and sponsoring schools, there are instances where STEM OPT employers must assist in tracking the STEM OPT students and their practical training progress.       

Should there be any concerns or questions, please feel free to contact the International and Postdoctoral Services Office at Feel free to also visit the Study in the States STEM OPT FAQS.


Ready to Hire a STEM OPT Employee?

Please see the step-by-step instructions on completing the Form I-983 and IPSO's STEM OPT compliance form.


Instructions for Sponsoring STEM OPT Employees

The STEM OPT extension carries documentation requirements and reporting responsibilities beyond those of the 1st year of OPT. 

These are formalized in Form I-983, which requires attestations by the candidate, the employer, the supervisor and the student’s DSO (F Program manager at the university they graduated from).

Step One (Dept. Admin)

The department administrator should select the appropriate I-983 template and send it to the candidate to fill out page one, section one. The administrator should then complete the compliance form, listing all comparable employees hired within the last three years.

Step Two (Candidate)

The candidate should complete form I-983, page one, section one. The candidate can ask the DSO at their school (F program manager) to assist with any fields they don’t know the answer to. The candidate should then forward the form to his/her sponsoring PI. (This can be emailed to the PI as there are no signatures at this point.)

Step Three (Sponsoring PI)

The sponsoring PI should first review the STEM Extension Guidance for Employing Departments, then complete all sections on page one of the compliance form, except for the Department Administrator signature. Information for some fields can be found on page one of the I-983 provided by the candidate. The PI should then complete sections 5 and 6 of Form I-983 and sign and date section six. The PI should then give the signed hard copies of Form I-983 and the compliance form to their department administrator.

Page 5 of the Form I-983 is completed after the first and second years of approved STEM OPT. Leave this page blank. See * below.

Step Four (Dept. Admin)

The department administrator should complete page two of compliance form and sign pages one and two of the form. The department administrator should then complete page two, section three of Form I-983. The administrator should then forward the hard copies of form I-983 and the compliance form to Jonathan Harwood in the International and Postdoctoral Services Office.

Step Five (IPSO)

IPSO will review the form to confirm that the offered salary meets STEM OPT requirements. Once this is confirmed, IPSO will sign and date page two of Form I-983. IPSO will make a scan of Form I-983 and the compliance form. IPSO will forward a scan of Form I-983 to the candidate.

Page 5 of the Form I-983 is completed after the first and second years of approved STEM OPT. Leave this page blank. See * below.

Step Six (Candidate and DSO)

The candidate will sign and date page one, section two of Form I-983 and send a scan to IPSO. The candidate will present the completed and signed form I-983 to their DSO to obtain an new updated Form I-20, endorsed for STEM OPT at Augusta University. The STEM OPT endorsed Form I-20 must be included in the application packet which will allow them to apply for the STEM OPT EAD extension. Once the candidate has their EAD, this will allow them to begin (or continue) employment at AU. For the latest processing time information for EADs, please consult the USCIS website


After Employment Commences

Once the candidate has sent a scan of the completed and signed I-983 to IPSO, IPSO will forward a scan, along with the signed and reviewed compliance form, to the department administrator for their files. The department, PI and OPT employee are responsible for updating and maintaining the training plan as described in Form I-983. Site visits by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are happening with increasing frequency. It is important your department understand and adhere to the requirements of the program as outlined in Form I-983.

*The following is from the STEM OPT Hub on the Department of Homeland Security's Study in the States website. 

The evaluation of a STEM OPT student’s training progress is a shared responsibility of both the student and the employer. The STEM OPT student is responsible for conducting an annual self-evaluation based on their own progress. The student must submit the first assessment within 12 months of the STEM OPT start date, and a second, final assessment that recaps the training and knowledge acquired during the complete training period.

The student must submit the 12-month and final evaluations no later than 10 days following the conclusion of the appropriate reporting period. If an opportunity ends early the student must submit the final evaluation within 10 days following the conclusion of the opportunity. Not submitting a final evaluation would be a violation of the terms of Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students,” and may jeopardize the student’s nonimmigrant status.

The employer must review and sign the self-evaluation to verify its accuracy. Although not required, employers may elect to attach and submit their own evaluation of a student’s progress. Once completed and signed by the appropriate individual in the employer’s organization, the STEM OPT student must return the “Evaluation of Student Progress” to their DSO, who will keep it in the student’s record.

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