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Hiring F-1 Students

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Why hire an international student? 

International students can be valuable contributions to any company or organization as they may bring different perspectives or insights to your workplace.  Many employers are concerned about liability issues related to the employment of international students in the United States due to changes in federal laws governing non‐citizens. 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. F-1 students are eligible for off-campus work authorization called Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT).  

What employment benefits do international students have? 

After their first academic year, F-1 students may engage in two types of off-campus employment:

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a type of off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students who must complete an internship course in order to graduate from their current degree program. CPT is authorized by the institution (NOT by USCIS) for F‐1 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 dates, 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 in our office. Processing time for the authorization of CPT is up to 10 business days once we receive approval from the student’s Academic Advisor.  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

Learn more about CPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Pre-OPT or Post-OPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion). However, all periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available periods of post-completion OPT.

Pre-OPT Post-OPT

STEM Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT)

The STEM OPT extension is a 24-month period of temporary training that directly relates to an F-1 student's program of study in an approved STEM field. Eligible F-1 students with STEM degrees who finish their program of study and participate in an initial period of regular post-completion OPT (often for 12 months) have the option to apply for a STEM OPT extension. Students may not apply for STEM OPT extensions during the 60-day grace period following an initial period of regular post-completion

What employers should know?

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).     

Continuing Employment after the Practical/Academic Training Period

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 USCIS is straightforward. The job must meet two basic requirements:   1) The salary must meet the prevailing wage as defined by the Department of Labor 2) A bachelor's degree is a minimum normal requirement for the position. 

What is the E‐Verify program and how can I enroll and is there a cost? 

There is no cost to register in E‐Verify program.  Information on E‐verify and the enrollment procedure can be found at the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov/everify

Do international students need work authorization before being hired?  

No. International students must have work authorization before they begin actual employment, but not before they are offered employment. In fact, J‐1 students must have a written job offer in order to apply for work authorization. Many F‐1 students will be in the process of obtaining work authorization while they are interviewing for employment. Students can give employers a reasonable estimate of when they expect to receive work authorization.  

As an employer, what must you provide to an international student?

During CPT

If you wish to offer an F-1 student a job or internship through their CPT benefit, you must supply them with an offer letter.  This offer letter must include the following: 

  • CPT start and end dates
  • Employer's name
  • Student’s name
  • Hours of work per week
  • Title of position
  • Description of their position duties
  • The address where their work will be performed
  • Official company representative name
  • Official company representative signature or official e-signature.  Typed signatures or signature fonts will not be accepted.
  • Date of the signature

During Pre-OPT & Post-OPT 

If you wish to offer an F-1 student a job or internship through their Pre or Post-OPT benefits, you must supply them with an offer letter.  An F-1 student cannot work until they receive their EAD card, and before or beyond the dates authorized on their EAD card (this includes volunteering and unpaid internships).

For Pre-OPT, once a student obtains a position, they must update their employment with the ISSC.  For this information, they will need the EIN for your company or organization in addition to other biographical information about your company and their job duties.  

For Post-OPT, once a student obtains a position, they must update their employment with the Student Exchange Visitor Program.  For this information, they will need the EIN for your company or organization in addition to other biographical information about your company and their job duties.  

During STEM OPT Extension 

A STEM OPT student and their employer must complete and sign the Form I-983 before the student may apply for a STEM OPT extension

The formal training plan on page 3 of the form I-983 must clearly articulate the STEM OPT student’s learning objectives and affirm the employer’s commitment in helping the student achieve those objectives. To fulfill this requirement, a student and their employer must complete and sign Form I-983 and submit it to the student’s DSO.  Typed or electronic signatures are not accepted on form I-983.

STEM OPT students and their employers are subject to the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, the Form I-983 instructions and the completed Form I-983, effective as of the employment start date requested for the associated STEM OPT period, as indicated on the Form I-983.

The employer must help the student complete two self-evaluations during the course of their 24-Month OPT STEM Extension period, which are on page 5 of the Form I-983. The first one within 12 months of the STEM OPT start date and a second at the end of the STEM OPT period. Evaluations must be signed by the student and their immediate supervisor, and then submitted to ISSC by eForm.

Additional Resources:

STEM OPT
Students and employers can use this page to learn about the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) rules and regulations for the optional practical training (OPT) extension for F-1 students with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees. 

USCIS Handbook for Employers

Why STEM OPT is Good for Small Business

Employers: STEM OPT Reporting Requirements 

Visit the STEM OPT Extension Overview to learn more.

WHAT EMPLOYERS SHOULD KNOW guide 

Form I-983 overview