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STEM Rules & Requirements

Beyond basic requirements for F-1 OPT, the 2016 STEM rule carries additional significant responsibilities for both students and employers. Once your 24-month STEM Extension is approved and takes effect, the criteria listed below must be satisfied in order to maintain STEM employment and your F-1 status.


Reporting Requirements

The 24-month STEM Extension carries all the same reporting requirements and document considerations as the initial 12-month OPT authorization. Please reference information on OPT Rules & Reporting for those details. Consistent with initial OPT benefits, you will remain under F-1 status and University of Rochester immigration sponsorship throughout the 24-month STEM Extension period. Accordingly, you must still satisfy all reporting obligations through ISO during this time. Both Students and Employers have reporting obligations to meet STEM Employment criteria, see below.


I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students

STEM regulations focus on specific educational and training goals of the STEM opportunity, meaning that students and employers are required to establish and maintain a formal training plan. Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students must be properly completed with authorized signatures and updated as necessary to reflect material changes or deviations. The Form I-983 must be submitted to ISO when requesting a recommendation for the STEM Extension and any time a change is made. Throughout the STEM period, both student and employer must ensure that the current Form I-983 is available to our office.

The I-983 Training Plan will identify goals of the STEM training, including field-specific skills, knowledge, or techniques that will be acquired or applied, and how those goals will be achieved through practical work-based learning. The plan must also explain how the training is directly related to the student's qualifying STEM degree and describe the employer's supervision and performance evaluation processes. For guidance on completing the Form I-983, please visit the DHS Study in the States resources (specifically, Form I-983 Instructions).

Here are some additional guidance for completing Form I-983:

  • In Section 5: If your work during STEM OPT will be performed remotely from home, please use your home address in Section 5, Employer Site Information, Site Address. If you will engage in your training at multiple sites, you should list the physical location where you are receiving the majority of your training in Section 5. You and your employer may list information about the other site(s) of activity/location(s) in the Additional Remarks box in Section 5.
  • Form I-983 Signatures: Electronic signatures are accepted, in lieu of wet signatures. In contrast, a typed name in a plain text field is not an acceptable signature. We will accept the below formats for electronic signatures:
    • A verified digital signature on the I-983 from the student and employer signatory. An example of a "verified digital signature" is a digital signature through DocuSign or Adobe software.
    • Electronically reproduced copies of a signature. 


Employer Qualifications & Reporting

To utilize the employment benefits available under the STEM rule, employers must agree and adhere to several criteria, as indicated by an authorized official within the organization when signing the Form I-983.  Employers must:

  • Enroll and maintain good standing in the E-Verify system (an internet-based system operated by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration; see E-Verify information for employers).
  • Have an Employer Identification Number (EIN) used for tax purposes.
  • Confirm that STEM training participant will work at least 20 hours per week and will not replace a full-time or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker.
  • Ensure that duties, hours, and compensation for STEM training are commensurate with those of similarly situated US workers.
  • Maintain sufficient resources and personnel to fulfill the specified training goals.
  • Review and attest to accuracy of student’s annual self-evaluations.
  • Comply with a DHS discretionary site visit, usually with 48-hour advance notice.

 Employer reporting must include:

  • Attest to accuracy of student's self-evaluation within first 12 months and at conclusion of training period.
  • Notification to ISO within 5 days is employment is terminated or students departs prior to the end of the training period.

For additional guidance, return to F-1 OPT: STEM Extensions.