How to help your employer qualify for STEM OPT?
What is STEM OPT and what additional requirements does it impose on the employer before you can get STEM OPT extension?
STEM OPT extension grants an additional 24 months of stay after the original 12 month OPT expires, totaling a 36 month of stay. As mentioned previously, STEM OPT is solely for students who completed a degree in science, technology, math, and engineering; students with any other degree will not be eligible to apply for STEM OPT extension. The STEM Designated Degree Program list provides a complete list of all STEM majors. The application for STEM OPT extension is similar to the OPT application, except for the additional requirements of E-Verify Program and Form I-983. Applicants who wish to apply for STEM OPT extension must be currently participating in a regular period of OPT. In this day and age, many inexperienced employers are unaware of the new requirements imposed on them for STEM OPT. Therefore, foreign employees who hold OPT status often find themselves helping the employer understand and complete the additional requirements to qualify them as STEM OPT employer.
The first step to enrolling an employer to STEM OPT is to enroll them in E-verify, which does not take much time and can be done from employer’s computer terminal.
The E-Verify program is an online system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States within seconds. In order to apply for STEM OPT extension, the employer must be enrolled in this program with USCIS. What E-Verify program does is that it confirms the applicant’s employment eligibility by comparing the information an employee enters in the Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) to Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records. If the result on your E-Verify program appears to be an E-Verify tentative non-confirmation (TNC), this means that the information entered by the employer from the student’s Form I-9 does not match government records. If TNC shows and you believe your result has been wrongfully determined, you may report to USCIS.
In addition to E-Verify program, myE-Verify is a free resource that students can use at anytime. myE-Verity’s Self-Check feature enables students to confirm the accuracy of government records.
The next step is to complete Form I-983 with employer and returning the completed form to Designated School Official to be kept in the student’s SEVIS records.
Form I-983 is a formal training plan entailing the STEM OPT student’s learning objectives and affirm the employer’s commitment to helping the students achieve this objective. The student and his or her employer must complete together and sign this form and submit it to the student’s DSO. The link to downloading Form I-983 can be found below. In section 5: Training Plan for STEM OPT Students must explain the following:
- How the practical training directly relates to the student’s qualifying STEM degree.
- The specific goals of the STEM practical training opportunity.
- How those goals will be achieved through the work-based learning opportunity with the employer, including details of the knowledge, skills or techniques to be imparted to the STEM OPT student.
- The performance evaluation process.
- The methods of oversight and supervision of the STEM OPT student.
The formal training plan documented in the Form I-983 must also establish that:
- The employer has sufficient resources and personnel available to provide appropriate training in connection with the specified opportunity and is prepared to implement the work-based learning opportunity at the locations identified.
- The STEM OPT student will not replace a full-time or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker.
- The opportunity assists the student in attaining their training goals.
- The duties, hours and compensation associated with the student’s STEM OPT position are commensurate with those provided to the employer’s similarly situated U.S. workers in the area of employment.