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Changes to processing and procedures for STEM OPT employees

Good morning colleagues,
 
Recent changes to immigration processing and procedures for the extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT) for international graduates in STEM fields have prompted us to issue this announcement to departments likely to be affected.  
 
BACKGROUND
 
International Students in F-1 status on OPT who have earned designated U.S. degrees with eligible Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) codes in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are allowed an additional 24 months of STEM OPT, beyond the 12 months available to most graduates. During this STEM OPT extension period, employers of said students agree to adhere to certain reporting and compliance obligations. (For more information see our STEM OPT webpages.)
 
PROCESSING DELAYS
 
IPSO has recently become aware that students applying for their STEM OPT extensions are experiencing severe delays, taking weeks or even months to obtain a receipt notice for their extension application. In severe cases, this has jeopardized their continued employment eligibility for working at AU. While USCIS has acknowledged the existence of such delays, it has provided no timetable for rectifying the issue. In addition, the filing location for STEM extensions has been moved from Texas to Chicago.
 
INCREASED OVERSIGHT
 
In addition, a January 13 announcement has notified all employers of STEM OPT students of the creation of an OPT Employment Compliance Unit, specifically tasked to provide enhanced oversight of the employment of STEM OPT graduates.
 
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR DEPARTMENTS AND GRADUATES
 
For those unfamiliar with this process, extension of STEM graduates OPT is a multi-step process involving attestations (including federal Form I-983 to be completed for each STEM OPT student/employee), submitting a STEM OPT application,  and timely reporting obligations from the student, employer, supervisor and Designated School Official (F program officer). Departments and sponsored employees should expect the process to take up to six months to complete and be prepared for a potential audit of their employment circumstances by federal agents. IPSO encourages department managers to review these obligations on our STEM OPT webpages

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Jonathan Harwood at joharwood@augusta.edu

Sincerely, 
IPSO Staff
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