The STEM OPT program allows F-1 visa holders to remain in the U.S. after graduating from science, technology, engineering, or math programs for optional practical training for up to two years, but participants must submit regular reports to maintain their lawful F-1 statuses. STEM OPT participants must regularly report to their designated school officers or DSOs during the duration of their extensions to validate the information in the Student Exchange Visitor Information or SEVIS program and to report any changes that have occurred in their training program. There are several additional requirements. It is important for STEM-OPT students to comply with the requirements so they can maintain their F-1 visa statuses during their programs.
Check-ins With the DSO
STEM-OPT students are required to meet with their DSOs once every six months to make certain that their SEVIS information still accurately reflects their circumstances. At these appointments, the STEM-OPT students will be required to verify their legal names, addresses, employer names and addresses, and their employment statuses. Any of these types of changes must be reported to the DSOs within 10 days of the change. If any material changes have happened to their I-983 Form training programs, they are required to report the changes to their DSOs. If a STEM-OPT student is terminated from his or her employment, the student must report the termination no later than 10 days from the date that it occurs. STEM-OPT students are also required to complete annual self-evaluations about their progress in their programs and submit them to their DSOs. This includes an initial self-evaluation after the first 12 months of their STEM-OPT programs and a final self-evaluation at the end of the two-year period.
Changes of Employers
When STEM-OPT students change employers, the new employers must first be enrolled in the E-Verify system. The students must complete new I-983 Forms and submit them to their DSOs. The new I-983 Forms must be submitted no later than 10 days following the employment change to a new training program. If the period of time between employers is longer than 10 days, the STEM-OPT students must first report the termination of the first practical training program and then submit a new I-983 Form within 10 days of beginning the new program.
The STEM-OPT program provides a good opportunity for international students to stay in the U.S. for training for up to two years following graduation. Remaining in good standing is important.