Hiring international students
Information about hiring international students
In order to build for what’s next in the global economy, companies need the best talent available. Opening your jobs and internships to international students will significantly broaden your pool of highly skilled talent.
Obtaining 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 these international students are eligible to accept employment under certain conditions. Johns Hopkins Carey Business School has many STEM designated programs as well, allowing students who meet certain criteria to work in the U.S. for an extended time period.
Internship U.S. work authorization
Students studying in the U.S. in F-1 status may be authorized through CPT to work off-campus, in jobs or internships related to their course of study, during their academic program. These candidates are eligible to work and collect compensation. Hiring a student on F-1 status requires minimal considerations on the part of the employer. Employers need only provide an offer letter containing certain criteria on company letterhead to the student.
After graduation U.S. work authorization
International student graduates can be authorized to work in the U.S. for 12 months through OPT. There are no considerations or expenses on the part of the employer to hire someone through OPT.
Eligible graduates who have completed at STEM designated degree (full-time MBA, MS Information Systems, MS Finance, MS Business Analytics Risk Management) are eligible for an extended OPT period, under certain conditions.
For information on the STEM extension.
Practical training and F-1 students
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
Optional Practical Training must be authorized by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services based on a recommendation from the designated school official in the International Student Office of the school which issued the form I-20, a government document which verifies the student’s admission to that institution. The term “optional” means that students can opt to use all or part of their total practical training allotment of a maximum of 12 months. OPT can be authorized by the BCIS, and generally students can work 12 months of practical training after completing their program of study. It should be noted that for BCIS purposes, students working anything more than 20 hours/week will be considered full-time. Students who have received OPT permission will be issued an Employment Authorization Document by the BCIS. Their name, photo and valid dates of employment are printed on the EAD. Employers should note that average processing time for BCIS to issue the EAD is two or three months, and students may begin employment only after they receive the EAD which will indicate the starting and ending dates of employment.
Curricular practical training
Curricular Practical Training may be authorized by the institution (not by BCIS) for F-1 students participating in curricular-related employment such as cooperative education, alternate work/study, practicum, and internship programs. This work experience must be deemed an integral part of an established curriculum in the student’s course of study. Authorization is written on page three of the I-20 student copy and will include the name of the company, address and zip code, beginning and ending date, and signature of the designated school official in the International Student Office. Since each institution has different policies related to curricular-related employment, students should speak to the DSO at their institution. Processing time for the authorization of CPT varies at each institution. Employers should check with the student’s institution for an approximate turnaround time.
Minimal paperwork for the employer
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 the BCIS. For CPT, the school will make a notation on the students’ copy of the I-20 form indicating that CPT has been authorized and specifying the duration and place of employment. Students authorized for OPT are required to apply to BCIS (through the International Student Office of the school) for an Employment Authorization Document.
Continuing employment after the practical/academic training period
Federal regulations require that employment terminates at the conclusion of the authorized practical or academic training. However, students on an F-1 visa, or students on a J-1 visa who are not subject to a two-year home residency requirement, may continue to be employed, if they receive approval for a change in visa category-usually to H-1B. Students must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in order to qualify for H-1B status.
Individuals may work in the U.S. for a maximum of six years under an H-1 B visa. This visa is valid only for employment with the company that petitioned for them. They must re-apply to the BCIS if they wish to change employers. As soon as the initial job offer is made, they should petition for an H-1B visa if employment is likely to extend beyond the practical training period.
Is it illegal to hire international students because they do not have a green card?
No. 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.” J-1 students may work on “academic training.”
Even if it's legal to 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 international student office handles the paperwork involved in securing the work authorization for F-1 and J-1 students. In fact, a company may save money by hiring international students because the majority of them are exempt from Social Security (FICA) and Medicare tax requirements.
How long can international students work in the United States with their student visa?
F-1 students are eligible for CPT before completing their studies, as well as an additional 12 months of OPT, either before or following graduation, or a combination of the two. However, if they work full-time for one year or more of CPT, they are not eligible for OPT. Students with a J-1 visa are usually eligible to work up to 18 months following graduation. They may also be eligible to work part-time during their program of study. Staff in the International Student Office on campus will evaluate each student’s situation to determine the length of time for which they are eligible to work.
Don't international students need work authorization before I can hire them?
No. International students must have the work authorization before they begin actual employment, but not before they are offered employment. In fact, J-1 students applying for academic training and F-1 students applying for CPT must have a written job offer in order to apply for the work authorization. Many F-1 students will be in the process of obtaining work authorization pursuant to the requirements of OPT 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 OPT, F-1 students receive an Employment Authorization Document, a small photo identity card that indicates the dates for which they are permitted to work. from BCIS. For CPT, F-1 students receive authorization from the school (NOT from BCIS) on page three of the student’s I-20. “No service endorsement is necessary” –per 8CFR 274a.12 (b) (6) (iii). J-1 students receive work authorization in the form of a letter issued by the RO or ARO at their institution.
What if I want to continue to employ international students after their work authorization expires?
With a bit of planning ahead, an employer can hire international students to continue to work for them in the H-1B visa category for a total of six years (authorization is granted in two three-year periods). The H-1B is a temporary working visa for workers in a “specialty occupation.” The application procedure to the BCIS is straightforward. The job must meet two basic requirements:
- The salary must meet the prevailing wage as defined by the Department of Labor.
- A bachelor’s degree is a minimum normal requirement for the position.
Doesn't an employer have to prove that international students are note taking jobs from a qualified U.S. citizen?
No. American employers are not required to document that a citizen of another country did not take a job from a qualified U.S. citizen if the non-U.S. citizen is working under a F-1, J-1 or H-1B 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 I hire international students as volunteer interns?
Normally, if the internship involves no form of compensation and is truly voluntary, the students may volunteer without having to do any paperwork with the BCIS. If, however, the internship provides a stipend or any compensation, students must obtain permission for practical training or academic training prior to starting their internship. Student should check with their employers to ensure that the company is allowed by law to offer unpaid internships.
What about taxes?
Unless exempted by a tax treaty, F-1 and J-1 students earning income under practical training are subject to applicable federal, state, and local income taxes. Information on tax treaties may be found in IRS Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, and 901, U.S. Tax Treaties.
Generally, F-1 and J-1 students are exempted from social security and Medicare tax requirements. However, if F-1 and J-1 students are considered “resident aliens” for income tax purposes, social security and Medicare taxes should be withheld. Chapter 1 of IRS Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens explains how to determine the residency status of international students.
More information on social security and Medicare taxes can be found in Chapter 8 of IRS Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens and in Section 940 of Social Security Administration Publication No. 65-008, Social Security Handbook.
For your reference: code of federal regulations
The Code of Federal Regulations Title 8 and Title 22 citation numbers for regulations governing practical training are as follows:
F-1 students: 8CFR 214.2 (f) (9) & (10)
J-1 students: 22CFR 62.23 (f)
CFR Title 8 citations governing IRCA requirements are:
F-1 students: 8CFR 27 4a. 12(b) (6) (iii) and 8CFR 274a. 12(c) (3) (i)
J-1 students: 8CFR 27 4a. 12 (b) (11)
Copies of the Code of Federal Regulations are available from the Superintendent of Documents in Washington DC or from the website :http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr/index/html
The original unmodified document was published in 2000 with a grant from NAFSA: Association of International Educators Region XII. 2004 revision by Laurie Cox, University of Southern California, and Co-Chair of SCICC (Southern California International Careers Consortium); coeditors: Lay Tuan Tan, California State University Fullerton, and SCICC Board member and Phil Hofer, University of La Verne.