Upon being granted of additional time to take 50,500 public comments into account regarding STEM OPT regulation by The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, DHS published the final rule on STEM OPT on March 11, 2016.
The rule entitled “Improving and Expanding Training Opportunities for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students with STEM Degrees and Cap-Gap Relief for All Eligible F-1 Students” has important changes from previous STEM OPT regulation that was struck down because of its deficiencies in the procedural rule making process.
Following are the important points:
- Students with F-1 status with degrees in STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) from accredited institutions of higher education will be able to extend their stay up to 24 months instead of 17 months after being granted of their initial 12 month OPT period.
- Implementing formal training program (Form I-983) will be required for employers who employ students with F-1 status with STEM degree.
- As part of completing Form I-983, Employers of STEM OPT students must attest to following:
- It has sufficient resources and trained personnel available to provide appropriate training in connection with the specified opportunity and;
- The student will not replace a full- or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker; and
- The opportunity will help the student attain his or her training objectives.
- There are also four following reporting requirements imposed under this rule:
- A six-month validation requirement: STEM OPT students and their schools must confirm certain biographical and employment information;
- An annual self-evaluation requirement: the STEM OPT students must report to the DSO on their progress with the practical training.
- The STEM OPT students and employer must report changes in employment status of the students including their termination and departure from the employer.
- The STEM OPT students and employer must report to the DSO material changes to the formal training plan.
- Employers of STEM OPT students are required to participate in E-Verify.
- STEM OPT students should be paid a salary commensurate with similarly situated workers.
- Random site visit will be conducted to verify employer’s compliance with the requirements. Generally, a notice will be given unless a complaint or other indication of violation of regulation prompted the site visit.
- The rule allows students who received a 24 month STEM OPT extension an additional 60 days of unemployment period during the practical training period in addition to 90 day maximum period of unemployment during the initial period of OPT
DHS will start accepting 24-month STEM OPT Extensions on May 10, 2016