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Information for Employers

STEM OPT Extension

Students on F-1 visas are eligible for a work benefit in the U.S. called Optional Practical Training (OPT) that allows students to work in their field of study for 12 months. Those who have earned eligible U.S. degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) may apply for additional OPT time. Effective on May 10, 2016, new STEM OPT regulations were issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The new rule imposed significant new obligations on students, employers and schools. Below are highlights of the new STEM OPT regulations.

  • The new rule increased STEM OPT from 17 to 24 months, allowing a total of 36 months of work authorization.

  • There are new requirements that must be followed by employers, students and Designated School Officials (DSO). There is a required Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students that must be completed by employers and students.

  • STEM OPT employment must be paid; and self-employment is not allowed.

  • Students will qualify for up to two STEM OPT extensions if they earn multiple STEM degrees in the U.S. and may be eligible for a STEM extension based on a previously earned STEM degree.

For the most up-to-date information on STEM OPT, please refer to the Study in the States website.

Responsibilities and Obligations

There are numerous employer requirements to which you must adhere. Some of those requirements are enumerated here, but you should pay particular attention to the attestation on page 2 of the I-983 Training Plan and the employer information located in Study in the States. General employer requirements include being registered with the E-Verfiy program and ensuring that hiring an international student with STEM employment will not displace a U.S. worker.


1. Rules apply for all STEM OPT students

2. The employer will have and maintain a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student

3. Must be E-Verify employer

4. Develop a training plan for the student

5. Complete Form I-983

6. Provide two evaluations for the student

7. Responsible for proving compliance during government site visits

8. Provide an opportunity that is commensurate with those of similarly situated U.S. workers in duties, hours, and compensation.

F-1 Students

1. Have a job offer related to your U.S. STEM designated degree

2. Work for an E-Verify employer

3. Have a paid position in STEM field for at least 20 hours per week

4. Work with OISS to complete a STEM OPT application and submit the application to USCIS

5. Complete the student portion of Form I-983

6. Submit the completed Form I-983 to OISS

7. Responsible for completing validation reports every six months and submitting it to OISS

8. Completing parts of evaluation


1. Review STEM OPT application

2. Issue STEM OPT recommendation on Form I-20

3. Maintain the completed Form I-983 in student’s file

4. Monitor student’s validation reports and evaluations

About Form I-983

The new STEM OPT rule that provides the 24-month STEM OPT regulations increases the educational benefits that F-1 students receive from their practical training experiences by requiring the submission of a formal training plan, using Form I-983.

The formal training plan, Form I-983, must clearly articulate the STEM OPT student’s learning objectives and affirm the employer’s commitment to helping the student achieve those objectives. To fulfill this requirement, a student and their employer must complete and sign Form I-983 and submit it to OISS. By signing Form I-983, students and their employers agree that they understand their obligations during the STEM employment.

STEM OPT students and their employers are subject to the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, effective as of the employment start date requested for the associated STEM OPT period, as indicated on Form I-983.

STEM OPT students may participate in entrepreneurial ventures where the student is an employee. However, they may not act as their own employer or as the signatory for the employer for the purposes of the form.

Instructions for Completing Form I-983 can be found here Resources for Employers: E-Verify E-Verify Webinars E-Verify Videos I-983 Training Plan Instructions Study in the States STEM OPT Hub - Employers Section STEM OPT Reporting Requirements One-Pager - STEM OPT Employer Requirements and Responsibilities Handbook for Employers M-274 - 6.4.2 F-1 and M-1 Nonimmigrant Students North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) What is a NAICS Code? NAICS FAQs Last Updated April 20, 2021


Practical training is a legal means by which F‐1 students can obtain employment in areas related to their academic field of study. Students, in general, must have completed one academic year (approximately nine months) in F‐1 status and must maintain their F‐1 status to be eligible for practical training. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) may be authorized by the institution (NOT by USCIS) for F-1 students participating in curricular‐related employment such as cooperative education, work study, practicum and internship programs. Authorization is indicated on page 3 of the I‐20 and includes the name of the company, beginning and ending date, and signature of the designated school official (DSO). Processing time for the authorization of CPT can take up to two weeks. International students on F‐1 visas are eligible for both CPT before finishing their studies, as well as 12 months of OPT. However, students who work fulltime on CPT for one year or more are not eligible for OPT.


Practical training is a legal means by which F‐1 students can obtain employment in areas related to their academic field of study. Students, in general, must have completed one academic year (approximately nine months) in F‐1 status and must maintain their F‐1 status to be eligible for practical training. Optional Practical Training (OPT) must be authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) based on a recommendation from the designated school official (DSO) at the school which issued the I‐20 to the student. Form I‐20 is a government document which verifies the student's admission to that institution. Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT for each degree level. Students who obtain a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) may be eligible for additional 24 months of OPT. Pre‐Completion OPT can be done prior to completion of study. Students can request to work:

  1. Part‐time, a maximum of 20 hours per week, while school is in session
  2. Full‐time during vacation when school is not in session or
  3. Full‐time/part‐time after completing all course requirements for the degree.
Post‐Completion OPT can be authorized for full time after completion of the course of study.

Other U.S. Visas

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