Optional Practical Training for F-1 Students

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a type of employment that can be used either during the course of study as pre-completion OPT (part time during the academic year or full-time during the summer) or, more commonly, full-time after completing the academic program. Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT per higher degree level. Students may change employers or work for multiple employers during OPT, as long as all employment is directly related to the student’s academic major. Students obtain a recommendation for OPT from their school, but must file with USCIS and cannot begin employment until they are in receipt of the Employment Authorization Document.

Optional Practical Training – 24 Month Extension for STEM fields

Those students who have graduated in an approved Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) field and meet other eligibility requirements may apply for a 24 month extension of their post-completion employment (STEM OPT). Under regulations that went into effect on May 10, 2016, students must now complete the Form I-983 training plan with their employer, agree to complete a 12 month and 24 month evaluation of their progress under that training plan, and comply with reporting requirements to their school. In addition, for any change in employer, a new Form I-983 must be submitted to the school within 10 days of beginning that employment.

Employers who wish to support an F-1 student’s STEM OPT extension must also agree to reporting requirements including:

  • Submitting to site visits. In most cases SEVP will provide 48 hour notice prior to the site visit, but reserves the right to conduct a visit without notice if triggered by a complaint or other evidence of noncompliance with the STEM OPT regulations.
  • Certifications that the F-1 employee on STEM OPT will be compensated the same as similarly situated U.S. workers at their company as well as details of that compensation.
  • Reporting any material change to the Form I-983 training plan which includes reduction in salary, ‘significant’ reductions in hours per week, change in FEIN due to corporate restructuring, or significant changes to the learning objectives as stated in the original training plan.
  • Reporting a termination of employment to the Designated School Official listed on the Form I-983 training plan (email is acceptable) no later than 5 days after the employment terminates.

Sivaraman Immigration Law assists employers with specific questions regarding how to complete the Form I-983 and best practices for maintaining compliance with these new reporting obligations.

More Information on the F-1 Student Visa

If you have additional questions, we welcome you to contact an immigration attorney at Sivaraman Immigration Law to request a consultation.

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Sivaraman Immigration Law’s founder, Heather Sivaraman, brings an exceptional level of initiative, creativity and dedication to the practice of Immigration Law. A 2008 graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law, she is an active… Read More
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Jing Huang, Associate Attorney, holds a Master’s degree in Law from University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa and a Bachelor’s degree in Law from China Women’s University. Prior to joining Sivaraman Immigration Law, Jing worked as an attorney in China s… Read More

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