Hiring International Students
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) allowing them to accept employment under certain conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Isn’t 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 student. 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, won’t 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 visas?
F-1 students are eligible for curricular practical training before completing their studies, as well as additional 12 months of optional practical training, either before or following graduation, or a combination of the two. Students who complete bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in STEM fields may work for 17 additional months of optional practical training at an E-Verify employer. However, if they work full-time for one year or more of curricular training, they are not eligible for optional practical training. Students with a J-1 visa are usually eligible to work up to 18 months following graduation.
Do 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 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 while they are interviewing for employment. Students can give employers a reasonable estimate of when they expect to receive work authorization.
Can international students work legally in the United States during summer internships?
Yes. International students on an F-1 student visa are eligible for curricular practical training during the summer internship period. J-1 visa holders can acquire authorization called academic training. Summer employment authorization is issued directly by PLU.
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 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
Does an employer have to prove that international students are not taking jobs from a qualified American?
No. American employers are not required to document that a citizen of another country did not take a job from a qualified American if that person is working under an 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.
Resources for Employers
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services information for employers and employees.
E-Verify is an internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-90, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.
PLU International Student Services is committed in providing programs and services to support for both academic and personal development of international students.
International Experts provides immigration and workforce solutions that enable U.S. employers to hire and retain international talent and capitalize on the highly sought skills of STEM experts.
This resource was modified from a document created by members of the International Career Opportunities Network a volunteer resource-sharing group.