USCIS: Clarification of STEM OPT Extension Reporting Responsibilities and Training Obligations

by Joseph McKeown

US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) updated their Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) webpage to clarify the reporting responsibilities for those participating in the STEM OPT program. USCIS states:

Students and employers must report material changes to the Designated School Official (DSO) at the earliest opportunity by submitting a modified Form I-983. Employers must report the STEM OPT student’s termination of employment or departure to the DSO within five business days. As previously indicated on the webpage, students must report certain changes, such as changes to their employer’s name and address, to their DSO within 10 business days.

The reporting obligation is especially important since those failing to do so could possibly accrue unlawful presence, according to updated guidance by USCIS.

Noting that prompt reporting ensures that DHS is able to effectively oversee the program, DHS also clarifies that STEM OPT participants may engage in training that takes place at a location other than the employer’s principal place of business but only if all training obligations are met, including that the “employer has and maintains a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student.” DHS notes that they will perform a case-by-case review confirming whether the student will be a “bona fide employee” of the employer that signs the training plan, and also confirm that the employer signing the training plan is the same entity employing the student and providing the practical training experience.