Many employers have questions related to the employment of international students in the United States due to federal laws governing non‐citizens. This document addresses concerns employers might have about international students and work.
Getting permission for international students to work in the U.S. is not as difficult as many employers think. Most international students are in the U.S. on non‐immigrant student visas (F‐1 and J‐1), and these international students are eligible to accept employment under certain conditions.
Hiring Students on an F-1 Visa
Practical training is a legal means by which F‐1 students can obtain employment in areas related to their academic field of study. Students, in general, must have completed one academic year (approximately nine months) in F‐1 status and must maintain their F‐1 status to be eligible for practical training. There are two types of practical training:
– Optional Practical Training
– Curricular Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) must be authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) based on a recommendation from the designated school official (DSO) at the school that issued the I‐20 to the student. USCIS formally designates the DSOs for each school. Form I‐20 is a government document that verifies the student’s admission to that institution. Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT for each degree level (e.g. Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate). Students who obtain a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) may be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT.
Employment Authorization Document (EAD): Students who have received OPT permission will be issued an EAD by USCIS. Their name, photo and valid dates of employment are printed on the EAD. Employers should note that the average processing time for USCIS to issue the EAD is two – three months. Students may begin employment only after they receive the EAD, which will indicate the starting and ending dates of employment. Students who have a pending STEM extension application can continue working for up to 180 days while the application is pending.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) may be authorized by the institution (NOT by USCIS) for F‐1 students. CPT is only for students participating in curricular‐related employment such as cooperative education, work study, practicum and internship programs. Authorization is indicated on page 3 of the I‐20 and includes the name of the company, beginning and ending date, and signature of the designated school official (DSO). Since each institution has different policies related to curricular‐related employment, students should speak to a DSO at their institution. Processing time for the authorization of CPT varies at each institution. International students on F‐1 visas are eligible for both CPT before finishing their studies, as well as 12 months of OPT. However, students who work full‐ time on CPT for one year or more are not eligible for OPT.
Minimal Paperwork for the Employer
Fortunately, there is little paperwork for an employer who hires F‐1 or J‐1 students. All paperwork is handled by the students, the school, and USCIS (for OPT). 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.
Hiring Students on a J-1 Visa
The Academic training for J-1 visa holders has a similar concept as the Optional Practical Training described above for student in F-1 visas. The primary purpose of academic training is to permit a student to participate in an academic training program during or after his or her studies, with or without wages or remuneration, with the approval of the academic dean or advisor and the responsible officer in the International Programs office where the student is attending(ed). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not play a role in the approval of this work authorization.
The student must receive written approval in advance and is authorized to participate in academic training for the length of time necessary to complete the goals and objectives of the training, provided that the amount of time for academic training:
(i) Is approved by the academic dean or advisor and approved by the responsible officer in the International Programs office where the student is attending(ed);
(ii) For undergraduate and pre-doctoral training, does not exceed 18 months, inclusive of any prior academic training in the United States, or the period of full course of study in the United States, whichever is less;
(iii) For post-doctoral training, does not exceed a total of 36 months, inclusive of any prior academic training in the United States as an exchange visitor, or the period of the full course of study in the United States, whichever is less.
To obtain formal authorization to engage in academic training, and have it stated in their immigration document(DS2019):
(i) The student must present to the responsible officer a letter of recommendation from the student’s academic dean or advisor setting forth:
- The goals and objectives of the specific academic training program;
- A description of the academic training program, including its location, the name and address of the training supervisor, number of hours per week, and dates of the training;
- How the academic training relates to the student’s major field of study; and
- Why it is an integral or critical part of the academic program of the student.
Minimal Paperwork for the Employer
Fortunately, there is little paperwork for an employer who hires J‐1 students. All paperwork is handled by the students, their academic dean or advisor and the Office of International programs where the student is attending(ed).
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.
Contact the Nitivia Jones, International Student Advisor at 509-335-2422