USCIS Clarifies STEM OPT Obligations


Today USCIS announced it updated the Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension for STEM Students page of its website to clarify the reporting responsibilities for participating in the STEM OPT program. USCIS summarized the changes as follows in its announcement:

Students and employers must report material changes to the Designated School Official (DSO) at the earliest opportunity by submitting a modified Form I-983. Employers must report the STEM OPT student's termination of employment or departure to the DSO within five business days. As previously indicated on the webpage, students must report certain changes, such as changes to their employer's name and address, to their DSO within 10 business days. Prompt reporting ensures that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is able to exercise effective oversight of the program.

Additionally, DHS is clarifying that STEM OPT participants may engage in a training experience that takes place at a site other than the employer's principal place of business as long as all of the training obligations are met, including that the employer has and maintains a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. DHS will review on a case-by-case basis whether the student will be a bona fide employee of the employer signing the Training Plan, and verify that the employer that signs the Training Plan is the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.

In reversing its own policy issued earlier this year, this USCIS announcement states that STEM OPT participants may now be placed at a third-party location as long as all of the training obligations are met.  The updated USCIS website states that “personnel” who may provide and supervise the training experience may be either employees of the employer, or contractors who the employer has directly retained to provide services to the employer; they may not, however, be employees or contractors of the employer’s clients or customers.  Additionally, under no circumstances would another F-1 student with OPT or a STEM OPT extension (who is undergoing training in their own right) be qualified to train another F-1 student with a STEM OPT extension. 

If you have any questions, please contact your Goel & Anderson attorney.