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F-1 OPT STEM

MIT Administrators > F-1 OPT STEM

24 Month OPT STEM Rule

Update about F-1 OPT STEM Extensions - April 2017

On March 11, 2016, the US Department of Homeland Security published a new rule about F-1 Practical Training in the Federal Register. The rule became effective May 10, 2016. A summary taken from the Rule is below.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) amended its F-1 nonimmigrant student visa regulations on optional practical training (OPT) for certain students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from US institutions of higher education.

Specifically, the final rule allows such F-1 STEM students who have elected to pursue 12 months of OPT in the United States to extend the OPT period by 24 months (STEM OPT extension).

This 24-month extension effectively replaces the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to certain STEM students. The rule also improves and increases oversight over STEM OPT extensions by, among other things, requiring the implementation of formal training plans by employers, adding wage and other protections for STEM OPT students and US workers, and allowing extensions only to students with degrees from accredited schools.

As with the prior 17-month STEM OPT extension, the rule authorizes STEM OPT extensions only for students employed by employers who participate in E-Verify.

The rule also includes the “Cap-Gap” relief first introduced in a 2008 DHS regulation for any F-1 student with a timely filed H-1B petition and request for change of status.

What does this mean for international scholars on OPT?

If the scholar is in F-1 status, the primary source of information about Practical Training should be the International Office at the school that sponsored their F-1 visa.

If a scholar is currently in their first, 12-month period of OPT and is eligible for a STEM extension, they may apply for the extension up to 90 days before the end of the current practical training period.

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I-983 Template for Administrators

It is the aim of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to improve and increase oversight over student OPT by requiring the implementation of formal training plans by employers, and adding wage and other protections for STEM OPT students and US workers.

As part of the STEM OPT process, DHS requires that Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, be prepared and signed by the student and the employer. Some of you may already have been contacted by students looking for assistance or guidance.

You may use the following template to help you complete Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, for individuals who will be employed by MIT.

Template for Form I-983

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MIT Employer Obligations

To understand the obligations of the DLC, as an employer, in more detail, you must go to the following information “hub” created by DHS and click on “employers.”

The new F-1 STEM OPT regulations require that employers (MIT DLCs) who will hire F-1 students during their periods of STEM Practical Training report certain information back to a school official from the student’s US college or university. Such information includes changes in terms of employment, termination or departure, etc.

The ISchO has created two forms to help you understand the employer obligations. The first form below can be used as a checklist to keep track of the reporting requirements.

Please note that the Employer Attestation on Commensurate Compensation is provided as a courtesy. Its use is optional. You may find it helpful in order to determine and attest that F-1 STEM OPT students are provided with compensation commensurate with that of similarly employed US workers. Please note that using this form does not provide the MIT DLC with legal protection in the event of a DHS site visit. Once completed, the form should be retained in the personnel file of the scholar and remain accessible in the event of a site visit. More information about DHS employer site visits.

Tips on How to Complete the Employer Attestation on Commensurate Compensation

  • If completing I-983 for a postdoc, you would be selecting #1 or #2.
  • If completing I-983 for a non-postoc position (such as Research Scientist, Research Associate, etc.), then you would be selecting #3 or #4.
  • Please contact an advisor in the ISchO if you have a question about how to determine compensation using OES data for #4.

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Useful Links

Additional information and resources:

The final rule in its entirety and commentary

List of STEM designated degree programs

Comprehensive explanations of the new rule can be found on the following websites: Study in the States and NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

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Last Updated: April 2017

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