The question that we have increasingly received from our clients is whether there are restrictions on the placement of STEM OPT students at third party client sites. While USCIS and ICE have not issued any definitive guidance on this issue, most practitioners today agree that subject to certain precautions, STEM OPT students can be placed at third party client sites.
Obtaining the 24-month STEM OPT extension involves the employer and the student filing a Form I-983 application with the Designated Student Official (DSO). The Form I-983 is meant to document the relationship between the STEM OPT opportunity, the academic degree received and the learning objectives of the F-1 student. The STEM OPT student is responsible for returning the completed and signed form to his/her DSO. STEM OPT employers are responsible for completing Section 3 to Section 6 on the Form I-983 and must provide a signature on the STEM OPT student’s annual self-evaluation, also documented on the form. STEM OPT students may participate in entrepreneurial ventures. However, they may not fill out their own Form I-983, Sections 3 to 6, nor act as their own employer for the purposes of the form.
The Form I-983 asks for the following details to be outlined in the application:
- Details about the tasks and assignments the student will carry out during the training opportunity and how those tasks relate to the student’s STEM degree. The plan must also describe the specific skills, knowledge and techniques the student will learn or apply and an explanation as to how the student will achieve the goals set out for the training opportunity. This description should include the training curriculum and timeline.
- Explanation about how the employer will provide oversight and supervision of the STEM OPT student. If the employer has a training program or related policy in place that controls such oversight and supervision, a description of this program or policy may suffice to fulfill this requirement.
- Information about the measures and assessments the employer will use to confirm that the STEM OPT student is acquiring new knowledge and skills. If the employer has a training program or related policy in place that controls such measures and assessments, a description of this program or policy may suffice to fulfill this requirement.
Specifically, the Form I-983 application requires that the STEM OPT student receive “on-site supervision and training” from the employer for the duration of the OPT employment. While the new rule mandates that the employer closely monitor and oversee the training of the STEM OPT employee, it does not prevent the placement of a STEM OPT student at a third-party client site. Employers should consider submitting as much evidence as possible in support of the I-983 application, including at the minimum, (1) a listing of the STEM OPT goals for the employee, (2) an explanation of how those goals will be achieved during the period of employment; (3) a description of the oversight and supervision afforded to the employee by the employer, (4) an explanation of the employer’s performance evaluation criteria, and (5) an explanation of the methods by which the employer will communicate with and monitor the employee’s progress, etc.