Frequently Asked Questions: Hiring International Students
Q. Isn’t it illegal to hire international students because they do not have a green card?
A. 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 fields of study. F-1 students can work on “practical training.” J-1 students may work on “academic training.”
Q. Even if it’s legal to hire international students, won’t it cost a lot of money and involve a lot of paperwork?
A. 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 student because the majority of them are exempt from Social Security (FICA) and Medicare tax requirements.
Q. How long can international students work in the United States with their student visas?
A. F-1 students are eligible for curricular practical training (up to 12 months - such as co-op or internship) before completing their studies, as well as an additional 12 months of optional practical training, either before or following graduation, or a combination of the two. However, if they work full-time for one year or more during curricular practical 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, or 36 months for postdoctoral fellows. They may also be eligible to work part-time during their program of study.
Q. Don’t international students need work authorization before I can hire them?
A. No. International students must have the work authorization before they begin actual employment, but not before they are offered employment. In fact, many 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.
Q. What does the work authorization look like?
A. For optional practical training, F-1 students receive from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), a small photo identity card that indicates dates for which they are permitted to work. For curricular practical training, F-1 students receive authorization from school (NOT from USCIS) on the student’s Form I-20. J-1 students receive work authorization in the form of a letter issued by their institutions.
Q. What if I want to continue to employ international students after their work authorization expires?
A. 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:
- The salary must meet the prevailing wage as defined by the Department of Labor, and
- A bachelor’s degree or higher is a minimum normal requirement for the position.
Q. Doesn’t an employer have to prove that international students are not taking jobs from a qualified American?
A. 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 a F-1, J-1 or H-1B visa. Employers may be required to 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 permanent resident status (a “green card”).