Hiring International Students
The University has a sizeable and diverse international student population that brings unique talents and perspectives to our community. It is possible to hire international students for internships and full-time jobs, but there are some special considerations.
The Gwen M. Greene Career & Internship Center can answer your questions about hiring an international student. You may also contact the University’s International Services Office (ISO) at email@example.com, or consult an immigration attorney.
You can hire international students for internships during the academic year, during breaks, and over the summer.
Unpaid Internships/Volunteer Work
International students may accept and work at an unpaid internship or volunteer opportunity without needing to process any paperwork, as long as they are not replacing a paid US 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about 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. Many of the following situations 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 undergraduate) 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 STEM Candidates
Candidates holding a degree in STEM (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 ISO, 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 the 12 or 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 six years. You need to apply for this three to four months prior to the OPT allowance ending, however the H-1B quota is making this more difficult.
Requirements for H-1B:
- Job requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree
- Salary meets the prevailing wage as determined by the US Department 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).
Frequently Asked Questions
- Will it cost a lot of money?
- Do international students need work authorization before I can hire them?
- If I let someone work on OPT/AT am I required to apply for an H-1B visa for them?
- If I hire someone on an H-1B visa, do I have to sponsor them for a green card (permanent residency)?
- If I apply for an H-1B visa for an employee, what happens if they decide to leave the company?
- What is the H-1B quota?
- I’ve heard about an OPT gap. What’s that?
- I have an OPT candidate on my staff, and want to see if they will qualify for the 17-month STEM extension. How do I do that, and what do I need to do to make it possible?
Will it cost a lot of money?
Not necessarily. For students applying for internships, there is no cost or paperwork involved on the employer’s end. For full-time employment, you do not need to pay anything for OPT candidate processing.
If you decide to continue the employment of an OPT candidate by hiring them under an H-1B visa, employers are responsible for the cost of applying for the visa. There are costs associated with any recruitment, and an immigration attorney can help you accurately assess the expenses of any related fees and time.
Do international students need work authorization before I can hire them?
No. However, they must have work authorization before their first day of work. This is supplied in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card, which they must show when they begin work on OPT (or a J1 sponsor letter for AT), and is supplied by their college or university.
If I let someone work on OPT/AT am I required to apply for an H-1B visa for them?
No. If you determine through the international student’s work that you do not wish to hire them after their OPT allowance is up, you are not required to do so. It is, however, inappropriate to promise H-1B sponsorship to a candidate if you are not serious about applying for it.
If I hire someone on an H-1B visa, do I have to sponsor them for a green card (permanent residency)?
No. An H-1B visa is good for up to three years, and may be extended to six years total. If during this time you decide you want to keep the employee more permanently, you may apply for their green card.
However, there is no requirement to do so. Again, it is inappropriate to promise a green card to a candidate if you do not intend to help them apply for one.
If I apply for an H-1B visa for an employee, what happens if they decide to leave the company?
There are no guarantees that an employee will not pursue other positions in their career. However, H-1B visas are tied to the employer. If you sponsor someone for an H-1B visa, they cannot take that work visa with them if they decide to leave. They would need to have an H-1B visa authorized to another employer in order to change companies.
What is the H-1B quota?
There is currently a quota on how many H-1B visas the government will authorize each year. 65,000 H-1B visas are allocated each year, starting on April 1. These visas go into effect on October 1 of that same year.
There are an additional 20,000 H-1B visa allowed for students who have earned an advanced degree, master’s level or higher. The quota does not apply to institutions of higher education.
I’ve heard about an OPT gap. What’s that?
Due to changes in federal regulations during April 2008, the H-1B gap no longer exists for OPT candidates. It previously referred to a gap in time between the expiration of their OPT 12-month allowance and the start date of new H-1B visas on October 1.
Any candidate on OPT who receives an H-1B visa with a start date in October of that year will now automatically have their OPT work allowance extended until September 30, regardless of the expiration date on their original OPT.
I have an OPT candidate on my staff, and want to see if they will qualify for the 17-month STEM extension. How do I do that, and what do I need to do to make it possible?
In order to qualify for the STEM extension, the candidate must hold a degree in the fields of actuarial science, computer science applications, engineering, engineering technologies, biological and biomedical sciences, mathematics and statistics, military technologies, physical sciences, science technologies or medical scientist, and their position with your company must require this specific degree. You will then need to have your company register with the Federal E-Verify program. We encourage you to discuss this process with an immigration attorney.