How to hire an international student on OPT

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For many companies in the United States, hiring international students can be a great way to foster new ideas and perspectives in the workplace. It also helps international students network and build professional connections as they begin their careers in the United States. If you are interested in hiring an international student for a vacant position in your company, it is important to understand the immigration implications and your responsibilities as an employer. Here’s what you need to know about hiring an international student:

Can F-1 student visa holders work in the United States?

Most international students in the United States are in F-1 Student Visa, a nonimmigrant visa category that allows foreign nationals to come to the United States to study at accredited colleges, universities, and other academic institutions. Before you can hire someone on an F-1 visa, it’s important to understand their work authorization options.

International students in the United States on an F-1 visa are permitted to participate in “practical training,” which refers to authorized work opportunities related to their field of study in the United States. Hands-on training allows international students to work in paid positions while they continue their studies. degrees or just after graduation.

To be eligible for practical training, students generally must have completed at least one academic year under F-1 visa status and must continue to maintain their F-1 status.

Hands-on training provides F-1 students with valuable opportunities to gain experience in their chosen field, which can enhance their resumes and help prepare them for future careers. However, it is important that students follow the specific rules and regulations associated with practical training, as failure to comply with these rules may result in violations of immigration rules.

One of the most common forms of work authorization through hands-on training for F-1 students is Optional Practical Training, or OPT.

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Understanding Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a temporary employment benefit for eligible international students in the United States who have an F-1 student visa. If you are interested in hiring an international student on OPT, here are some key features of OPT to know:

  • Eligibility: To be eligible for OPT, F-1 students must have been enrolled in an academic program for at least one year. They can apply for OPT before or after completing their studies.
  • Duration: Students can generally work under OPT for a maximum of 12 months. However, students with a STEM degree may be eligible for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.
  • Authorisation: OPT work authorization is granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To work legally in the United States during their OPT period, students must apply for and receive a Work Authorization Document (EAD) of USCIS.

So, what is required of U.S. employers hoping to hire international students on OPT? Since there is no sponsorship process required for OPT students (as is the case for other work visa programs), employers simply need to make a job offer once the student receives their EAD. It is important to pay close attention to the details of the EAD, as the document will clearly indicate the dates the individual is eligible to work in the United States under OPT status.

You can learn more about the OPT program in The limitless guide.

Benefits of Hiring International Students on OPT

Once an international student receives an EAD from USCIS and is legally authorized to work in the United States, U.S. employers enjoy many hiring benefits:

  • Diverse perspectives: International students can bring unique perspectives, cultural diversity, and a global mindset to the workplace.
  • Language skills: Many international students are multilingual or proficient in English and other languages, making them valuable assets to companies with international operations or a diverse customer base.
  • Specialized skills: OPT participants often have training and skills in specific, high-demand fields (including STEM), which can fill talent gaps within a company.
  • Global Market Overview: International students can have first-hand knowledge of international markets and trends, which can be invaluable to companies looking to expand their global presence.
  • Adaptability: Having navigated the U.S. immigration system and already moved to a new country, international students are generally adaptable and able to work in dynamic, rapidly changing environments.
  • Talent pipeline: Hiring international students on OPT can serve as a talent pipeline, potentially leading to sponsorship for longer-term work visas (like the H-1B) or employment-based green cards for those who wish to settle permanently in the United States.

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