The Department of Homeland Security has published a proposed form and instructions relating to the extension of Optional Practical Training for students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and the proposed new program requirements for employers and universities.

Under the proposed rule published last week in the Federal Register, the government would require the student and prospective employer to complete and submit to the school’s Designated School Official (DSO) a formalized “Mentoring and Training Plan” using a new Form I-910DHS. Instructions for completing the form may be viewed here.

The Form I-910 collects extensive information about the student seeking the STEM extension and the sponsoring employer. For example, the employer must report the number of hours per week the student will work, the salary amount and frequency of payment, and other compensation. An official with signatory authority for the employer must sign the form, affirm under penalty of perjury that the information provided is true and correct, and certify the following:

  • The student’s practical training opportunity is directly related to the qualifying STEM degree and the position achieves the objectives of the student’s participation in this training program.
  • The student will receive on-site supervision, mentoring and training by experienced and knowledgeable staff.
  • The employer has sufficient resources and personnel to provide the specified mentoring and training program, and the employer is prepared to implement that program, including at the locations identified in the plan.
  • The practical training opportunity will not result in the termination, laying off, or furloughing of any full- or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. workers.
  • The terms and conditions of the STEM practical training opportunity are commensurate with the terms and conditions that apply to the employer’s similarly situated U.S. workers.
  • The training complies with all applicable federal and state employment laws.

The Mentoring and Training Plan section of the form requests descriptions of:

  • The student’s worksite and supervisor’s contact information.
  • The student’s role in the program and the program’s direct relationship to the student’s qualifying STEM degree.
  • The specific goals and objectives for the program and a detailed explanation of how they will be achieved.
  • The student’s planned supervision.
  • How the student’s acquisition of new knowledge, skills, and techniques will be measured.

The student’s supervisor is responsible for signing this section of the form under penalty of perjury. The Form I-910 also provides forms for evaluation of the student’s progress, which the student and the supervisor must review and sign every six months and at the conclusion of the program.

The proposed rule would require the student’s educational institution to retain copies of the Mentoring and Training Plan for a period of three years after the completion of the STEM practical training opportunity, and make it available to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program within 30 days of receiving it. Though the proposal does not require that the Form I-910 be submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, it provides that both agencies may request it.

The public has 30 days to comment on the proposed form and instructions.

BAL Analysis: Employers are encouraged to carefully review the new form and its instructions. Though it is welcome news that the government is seeking to expand and extend Optional Practical Training, DHS is also seeking to impose new substantive and procedural obligations on companies, foreign students, and universities. BAL is working with clients and trade associations to evaluate the proposed regulation and accompanying form. If you are interested in contributing to those efforts, please contact the BAL professional with whom you normally work.

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