- Can we hire international students if they do not have a green card?
Yes. Federal regulations permit the employment of international students on F‐1 and J‐1 visas within certain limits. These visas allow students to work in jobs related to their major field of study. F‐1 students can work on “practical training” and J-1 students on “academic training”.
- Even if I can hire international students, will it cost a lot of money and involve a lot of paperwork?
No. The only cost to the employer hiring international students is the time and effort to interview and select the best candidate for the job. The student works with their international student office on the paperwork involved in securing the work authorization for F‐1 and J‐1 students. In fact, a company can benefit by hiring international students because the majority of them are exempt from Social Security (FICA) and Medicare tax requirements. If the international student is eligible for a 24-month STEM extension, there is one form the employer is responsible for filling out with the student, the I-983. This form will need to be updated every 12 months or in the event of a change in employment for the student.
- How long can international students work in the United States with their student visa?
After being enrolled full-time for at least one academic year, F‐1 students are eligible for curricular practical training before completing their studies, as well as an additional 12 months of optional practical training, either before or following graduation, or a combination of the two. Students who complete bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees in a STEM field may work for 24 additional months of optional practical training at an E‐Verify employer. After being enrolled full-time for at least one academic year, or after graduation, J-1 students can have 18 months of academic training at the (bachelor’s and master’s level, and 36 months of academic training at the doctorate level.
- Can I hire an an international student before they have work authorization?
Yes. International students must have the work authorization before they begin actual employment, but not before they are offered employment. Many F‐1 students will be in the process of obtaining work authorization while they are interviewing for employment. Students can give employers a reasonable estimate of when they expect to receive work authorization.
- What does the work authorization look like?
For Optional Practical Training, F‐1 students receive from USCIS an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), a small photo identity card that indicates the dates for which they are permitted to work. For Curricular Practical Training, F‐1 students receive authorization from the school (NOT from USCIS) on the back of the student’s “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status”, or as it is more commonly known, “Form I‐20”. No work authorization signature is necessary from the designated school official. For J-1 students, the approved “academic training” will be on page 1 of their DS2019 form, the document that allows you to apply for the J-1 Visa as an Intern or Trainee in the USA.
- Does an employer have to prove that international students are not taking jobs from a qualified American?
No. American employers are not required to document that a citizen of another country did not take a job from a qualified American if that person is working under an F‐1 or J‐1 visa. Employers must document that they did not turn down a qualified American applicant for the position only when they wish to hire foreign citizens on a permanent basis and sponsor them for a permanent resident status (“green card”).
- Can international students serve in voluntary internships?
It depends. If the internship involves no form of compensation and is truly voluntary by U.S Dept. of Labor standards, a student may volunteer without having to do any paperwork with the USCIS. If, however, the internship is not truly voluntary, includes work that others are paid for, or provides a stipend or any compensation, a student must obtain permission for practical training or academic training prior to starting the internship. Students should check with their employers to ensure that any claimed volunteer internship is lawfully “volunteer.” Please be aware that many positions described as “volunteer” do not in fact meet the legal requirements for volunteer positions.
- What is the cost of E‐Verify program and how can I enroll in E‐Verify program as an employer? There is no cost to register in E‐Verify program. Information on E‐verify and the enrollment procedure can be found at the USCIS website at uscis.gov/everify
Adapted from a document which was originally published in 2000 with a grant from NAFSA: Association of International Educators
Region XII. Revisions made in 2004, 2010 and 2016. Editors: Laurie Cox, University of Wisconsin, Madison; 2010 coeditors:
Lay Tuan Tan, California State University Fullerton, Phil Hofer, University of La Verne & Junko Pierry, Stanford
University; 2016 co-editors: Junko Pierry, Stanford University & Laurie Cox, Ball State University.