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F-1 STEM OPT Protocol

Learn about the protocol for departments to support the F-1 STEM OPT extension.

New Regulations

New regulations governing the F-1 STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension are in effect as of May 10th, 2016. In order for UC San Diego to either continue to employ or hire new F-1 students during their STEM OPT period, the institution must meet new requirements. Students will be responsible for alerting their departments to their need for STEM extension support, and departments will have to decide to either meet these new requirements or sponsor students in an alternative visa classification that provides work authorization. For more information, see Homeland Security's Study in the States.

Important: Failure of the employer to comply with the below reporting requirements will jeopardize the student’s work authorization through the F-1 STEM OPT program and ultimately their legal status in the U.S. See Homeland Security reporting requirements under the new regulations for more information on employer reporting requirements.

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Highlights of new rule

  • STEM OPT now allows for an additional 24 months of employment past the initial OPT year; a transition period and guidelines exist for those with pending or already granted 17-month STEM extensions
  • Students must have a certified training plan, the Form I-983, which will require updating if substantive changes are made, as well as self-evaluations at 12- and 24-month intervals
  • STEM OPT requires employment for at least 20 hours/ week; volunteering is not allowed
  • Separation from employment of a STEM OPT student prior to end of authorized STEM employment necessitates reporting to the student’s home institution

Definitions

  • Designated School Official (DSO): The school official at the student’s institution of record (that issued the student’s I-20) who will review the student’s training plan and will recommend the student for their STEM OPT extension
  • Home Institution: the school that issued the student’s I-20 certificate of eligibility for F-1 status
  • Signatory Authority: the person who represents UC San Diego as the “employer official” and who certifies the statements in the training plan
  • Student: person currently in F-1 status engaging in their optional practical training benefit; may include persons in a variety of staff and academic titles, including staff research associate and postdoctoral appointment titles

Complete and certify the Form I-983

The Form I-983 requires two signatures of the “Employer Official with Signatory Authority,” on page 2 and page 4. Each signature indicates that the signer will comply with the statements they are certifying. The sponsoring department will determine who, within the sponsoring department, is the appropriate “signatory authority” and therefore responsible for following through on all attestations; the signatory for pp.2 and 4 do not necessarily have to be the same person within the department.

The designated signatory authority(ies) of the department must work with the student to properly complete the Form I-983 (PDF) following federal instructions; the student completes and certifies the “Student Information” section and the departmental signer the “Employer Information” section. Both parties work together to complete the “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.” The Form I-983 will need to be completed before a student can apply for their STEM OPT extension or, for students currently on the STEM OPT extension and newly hired at UC San Diego, within 10 days of hiring. Pages 5-7 (the evaluations) will only be completed later, at the 12- and 24-month periods of the STEM OPT employment. 

Note the following specialized information for completion of the employer section:

  • Employer ID Number: 95-6006144
  • Number of Full-Time Employees in U.S.: 11,000+
  • North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Code: 611310

Once completed, the student will need to provide the Form I-983 to a Designated School Official (DSO) at their home institution, who will recommend them for the STEM OPT extension to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Departments should keep a copy of this formal training plan on file, as it has vital contact information for the student’s DSO.

Certify the student's annual evaluations

The signatory authority must review the student’s annual self-evaluation (pp. 6-7 of the Form I-983) and certify its accuracy. It is the student’s responsibility to commence their 12- and 24-month self-evaluations in a timely fashion. The student must submit the certified self-evaluation to a DSO at their home institution within 10 days following conclusion of the applicable evaluation period.

Inform home institution of any material changes to an existing Form I-983

The signatory authority must work with the student to report to a DSO at the student’s home institution any material changes to or deviations from the formal training plan by completing a new Form I-983. For some examples of material changes, see STEM OPT Reporting Requirements.

Report end of employment to home institution

The signatory authority must notify the DSO at the student’s home institution when the student’s employment is ended for any reason before the end of the authorized extension period. Notification must happen no later than five business days after the student’s employment terminates.

DSO contact information for this notification is included on page 1 of Form I-983; name of student and separation date is all the information that is required.

Template for reporting end of employment

Dear [Designated School Official (DSO) name from Form I-983]:

The F-1 STEM OPT employee, [first name LAST NAME, DOB: MM/DD/YYYY] has ended employment with University of California, San Diego, on [MM/DD/YYYY], prior to the end date of their currently approved F-1 STEM OPT employment. We are reporting this early end of employment to you within 5 business days per requirements outlined on Form I-983. If you have any questions, please contact me.

Sincerely,

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