What employers should know about hiring international students

Updated: Jul 29

July 23, 2021



International students, being multilingual from diverse cultural and global backgrounds, are an asset to the employer. Employing international students is not a complex process as paperwork to hire international students is minimal, and employment eligibility is easily verifiable. Most international students studying in the United States hold F-1 or J-1 student visa status. Practical training is meant to give students real-world experience in their major field of study. These students may apply for work authorization during their studies and after graduation through several programs, including F-1 CPT, F-1 OPT, STEM OPT, and J-1 AT.


The primary purpose of these programs is to give students real-world experience in their major field of study; hence, the job that your offer must be related to their major field of study. Therefore, make sure to check their major field of study when you make a job offer to them. The students may apply for work authorization during their studies and after graduation through several programs. Since different programs have different requirements, employers willing to hire international students must pay attention to few aspects connected to F-1 CPT, OPT, STEM OPT, and J-1AT programs while hiring international students. Students can only perform the work during the period they are work authorized. As an employer, you must be I-9 compliant and verify the identity and work authorization of every person hired. Do not employ the student outside of their work-authorized period.


F-1 students may work full-time on Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during the summers and winters if they are not enrolled in a course during that time before they graduate. F-1 Students are allowed up to 12 months of Optional Practical Training after graduation if they did not do full-time CPT during their study. F-1 students in science, technology, engineering, and math fields are allowed up to 24 months of STEM OPT. J-1 students may work for up to 18 months in their field of study and more extended for post-doctoral research.


If you are hiring a student CPT, they should be on a valid, Valid F-1 immigration status, be enrolled as a current student in your program of study, and show two semesters of full-time enrollment in F-1 SEVIS status before the CPT. The government views this type of employment as “practical training” i.e., an extension of their academic learning and field of study. That is why academic credit is required and why students cannot start this before they finish one year of academic study.


F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT), unlike CPT, is available to a student both before and after graduation. A student can obtain 12 months of full-time OPT after completing the degree program unless they have used some or all your OPT while still a student. The amount of OPT, a student, has already used will be deducted from the allowable 12 months of post-graduation OPT. OPT employment also needs to be in the students’ degree field. It would help if you employed an F-1 OPT student for at least 20 hours per week. STEM OPT provides another two years of work authorization to students.


If you are employing a student on J-1, remember it should be academic training, off-campus employment related to the student’s major area of study. J-1 AT is designed to allow a student to apply the knowledge and skills they learned at school. It should not exceed the amount of time it took for a student to complete the entire course of study or 18 months, whichever is shorter. However, post-doctoral training might last if 36 months. If you employ a J-1 student, remember that the student must maintain health insurance throughout the academic training.


Suppose you want your international student employee to continue working for you, you can consider sponsoring their application for another visa type that would allow them to work as a non-immigrant worker.


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Yen-Yi Anderson, Managing Partner of Anderson & Associates, founded the law firm in January 2014. Yen-Yi Anderson focuses her practice on excellence in business immigration, commercial law, and civil litigation.


Gloria D’Souza, is an Associate specializing in immigration at Anderson & Associates and a contributing author for the Anderson & Associates blog.


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