The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) issued final regulations in March 2016 regarding the revamped STEM OPT program that allowed for granting of 24 months of STEM OPT to qualifying STEM-field F-1 student graduates who would be employed by e-Verify employers. Under those regulations certain obligations were placed on such students and their employers under the STEM OPT program, including the requirement that employer’s participate in preparing a formal Training Plan (Form I-983) for the student’s STEM OPT experience.
The present newsletter is a reminder of some of those obligations.
The STEM OPT final rule includes four primary reporting requirements, as follows:
(1) A six-month validation requirement: under which a STEM OPT student reports to his or her DSO every six months during the duration of STEM OPT and confirms the validity of certain information (such as student name and address, employer name and address).
(2) An annual self-evaluation requirement: under which the student must report to the DSO on his or her progress with the practical training. The student’s employer’s authorized signatory must sign the student’s self-evaluation prior to the student sending the report to the DSO. The report should be completed by the end of the first year of OPT (as measured by the validity dates of the student/employee’s EAD), and must be submitted by the student to his or her school’s DSO no later than 10 days following the completion of that first year. A final self-evaluation must be completed by the end of the second year of STEM OPT (or by the end of the STEM OPT if it ends earlier), and similarly, must be submitted within 10 days of the conclusion of that period. It is important that students in STEM OPT and their employers calendar these obligations for action at the appropriate times. It should also be noted that STEM OPT participants who change employers during their period of STEM OPT are required to submit a new Training Plan for the new employment within 10 days of starting new employment. The self-evaluation reporting obligation would still apply with respect to the end of the first year of the student’s STEM OPT based on the EAD that was originally issued.
(3) Reporting changes in employment status: both the student and the employer must report changes in the STEM OPT employee’s employment status to the DSO, including when an F-1 student on a STEM OPT extension terminates or otherwise leaves his or her employment before the end of the authorized period of OPT; this notice must be provided no later than five (5) business days after the student leaves employment; and
(4) Reporting material changes: both student and employer are obligated to report to the DSO material changes to, or material deviations from, the student’s formal Training Plan.
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Finnan, Fleischut & Associates will continue to keep our clients advised of important developments in this area. If you have specific questions about how these developments affect a current or possible future situation, please contact us.