Hiring an International Student
Unpaid Internships/Volunteer Work
International Students may accept and work at and unpaid internship or volunteer opportunity without needing to process any paperwork, as long as they are not replacing a paid U.S. worker and are not receiving any compensation.
Note: ANY sort of compensation is considered payment, including housing, buying books, stipends, etc. Please contact the International Services Office (link) if you have questions regarding compensation.
Paid Internships – Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
For paid internships, the student must apply for CPT authorization on their I-20 form (student visa). It is the student’s responsibility to do this, and there is no cost or responsibility to the employer. The international student should then be paid through your regular payroll process.
*The guidelines below are applicable to students on an F-1 or J-1 visa (most undergraduate international students). For students holding other visa classes please consult with an immigration attorney.
Following graduation there are several options for hiring an International Student. We will list the most common, but many of these options rely on the student’s current visa status, previous time spent working, and other issues.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)/Academic Training (AT) – During and following each degree, international F-1 (most undergrad) students are eligible for up to 12 months of OPT and J-1 students for up to 18 months of Academic Training (AT). The student is responsible for applying for OPT/AT through the ISO office on-campus. You do not need to fill out any paper work for the federal government or any other agency. You may hire the international student through your regular payroll with an I-9 form. Please check with your accountant or immigration attorney to determine appropriate tax withholding if necessary.
OPT 17-month extension for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) candidates: New as of Spring 2008, candidates holding a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields are eligible for a 17-month extension on their OPT. They must be employed or have a job offer from an employer who is registered with the E-Verify federal employment tracking system. If you are interested in assisting an OPT student with obtaining this 17-month extension, please contact the University of Rochester International Services Office, or consult with your immigration attorney.
H1B Visa – Longer-term work (12/18+ months-6 years)
If you wish to continue employing an international student beyond their 12(/18) months of OPT/AT, you will need to sponsor them for an H-1B visa. An H-1B visa is good for three years, with the option to extend to a total of 6 years. You need to apply for this 3-4 months prior to the OPT allowance ending, however the H-1B quota is making this more difficult (please see FAQ’s for information on the quota).
Requirements for H-1B:
1. Job requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree
2. Salary meets the prevailing wage as determined by the Dept. of Labor
There is NO requirement that you need to prove you could not find an American citizen to fill the job under F-1, J-1 or H-1B categories. This is only necessary when sponsoring an employee for a green card (permanent residency).
Click for Frequently Asked Questions.
The Career Center is happy to help with your questions about hiring an international student. You may also contact the University of Rochester International Services Office or consult an immigration attorney.
Amber Graham, Associate Director