STEM OPT vs Regular OPT

The 24-month STEM OPT rules are more stringent than the regular 12-month OPT rules. Here are some of the main differences:

E-Verify Employer

Although it doesn’t matter for the regular 12-month OPT, on STEM OPT you can only work for an employer enrolled in E-Verify.

STEM OPT Training Plan (Form I-983)

Form I-983 is a key component of STEM OPT.  The first time you will need to use this form is when you request a new I-20 from OIS for your STEM OPT application. You and your prospective STEM OPT employer must complete this form and submit it to OIS for review. OIS will keep the completed form on file and be responsible for providing it to a DHS official if requested.

The last page of Form I-983 is used for completing annual self-evaluations: at the first anniversary of your STEM OPT, at the very end of your STEM OPT, and at the end of each STEM OPT employment. In all other instances, you should leave this page blank.

Reporting Requirements

During the regular 12-month OPT, all you need to report to OIS are changes in your employment situation via the online OPT Validation form and your new residential address via MyPack portal. While on STEM OPT, you have additional reporting requirements:

  • Six-Month Validations

Every six months, starting from the start date of your STEM OPT, you must submit the online OPT Validation form, even if nothing has changed in your employment situation.

  • Annual Self-Evaluations

You must submit an initial evaluation for the first year of your STEM OPT and the final evaluation at the end of your STEM OPT. You must also submit a final evaluation at the end of each employment. The evaluation must be completed on Page 5 of Form I-983 and submitted via STEM OPT Upload Center.

  • Change of Employer

When changing employers on STEM OPT, you must submit to OIS via STEM OPT Upload Center:

  1. Final evaluation (Page 5 of I-983) for the previous employer (if this employment has ended);
  2. Change of STEM OPT Employer form;
  3. New I-983 form for the new employer.
  • Material Changes to Form I-983

Every time there is a material change to your training plan, you must submit an updated I-983 form via STEM OPT Upload Center. The material changes to I-983 are listed on DHS website.

You can find more information about Form I-983 on DHS website.