What Employers Should Know About Hiring International Students

Processing time for the authorization of CPT varies at each institution. Employers should check

with the student’s institution for an approximate turn-around time. International students on F-1

visas are eligible for both curricular practical training before finishing their studies, as well as 12

months of OPT. However, students who work full-time on curricular practical training for one

year or more are not eligible for OPT. Those engaging in OPT prior to graduation may work for

a maximum of 20 hours per week during their school term and 40 hours during their break



Academic training for J-1 students

Exchange students enter the U.S. on a J-1 visa. Practical training is called “academic training”

for J-1 visa students. International students on J-1 visas are eligible for up to 18 months of

academic training. Post-doctoral students are permitted three years. Some J-1 program

participants are also allowed to work part-time during the academic program. Academic Training

is granted in the form of a letter by the Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible

Officer (ARO). Students should consult with the RO or ARO at their institution.


Minimal paper work 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 CIS. For curricular practical training, the

school will make a notation on the students’ copy of the I-20 form indicating that curricular

practical training has been authorized, and specifying the duration and place of employment.

Students authorized for optional practical training are required to apply to CIS (through the

school) for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).


Continuing employment after the practical/academic training period

Federal regulations require that employment terminate at the conclusion of the authorized

practical or academic training. However, students on an F-1 visa, or students on a J-1 visa who

are not subject to a two-year home residency requirement, may continue to be employed, if they

receive approval for a change in visa category-usually to H-1B. Students must have a minimum

of a bachelor’s degree in order to qualify for H-1B status.

Individuals may work in the United States for a maximum of six years under an H-1B visa. This

visa is valid only for employment with the company that petitioned for them. They must re-apply

to the CIS if they wish to change employers. As soon as the initial job offer is made, they should

petition for an H-1B visa if employment is likely to extend beyond the practical training period.


What about taxes?

Unless exempted by a tax treaty, F-1 and J-1 students earning income under practical training are

subject to applicable, federal, state, and local income taxes. Information on tax treaties may be

found in Internal Revenue Services Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, and 901, U.S.

Tax Treaties.

Generally, F-1 and J-1 students are exempted from social security and Medicare tax

requirements. However, if F-1 and J-1 students are considered “resident aliens” for income tax

purpose, social security and Medicare taxes should be withheld. Chapter 1 of Internal Revenue

Services Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens explains how to determine the residency

status of international students.

More information on social security and Medicare taxes can be found in Chapter 8 of Internal

Revenue Services Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens and in Section 940 of Social

Security Administration Publication No. 65-008, Social Security Handbook.


For your reference

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 8 and Title 22 citation numbers for regulations

governing practical training are as follows:

F-1 students: 8CFR 214.2 (f) (9) &(10)

J-1 students: 22CFR 62.23 (f)

CFR Title 8 citations governing IRCA requirements are:

F-1 students: 8CFR 274a.12(b)(6)(iii) and 8CFR 274a.12(c)(3)(i)

J-1 students: 8CFR 274a.12(b)(11)

Copies of Code of Federal Regulations are available from the Superintendent of Documents in

Washington D.C. or from the web site:



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

study. F-1 students can work on “practical training.” J-I students may work on “academic


Even if it’s legal to hire international students, won’t it cost a lot of money and involve a lot of


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 visa?

F-1 students are eligible for curricular practical training 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 of 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. They

may also be eligible to work part-time during their program of study. The Responsible Officer

(RO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) will evaluate each student’s situation to determine

the length of time for which they are eligible to work.

Don’t 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.

What does the work authorization look like?

For Optional Practical Training, F-1 students receive from CIS an Employment Authorization

Document (EAD), a small photo identity card that indicates the dates for which they are

permitted to work. For Curricular Practical Training, F-1 students receive authorization from the

school (NOT from CIS) on the back of the student’s I-20. “No Service endorsement is necessary”

– per 8CFR 274a.12(b)(6)(iii). J-1 students receive work authorization in the form of a letter

issued by the RO or ARO at their institution.

What if I want to continue to employ international students after their work authorization


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 CIS 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.

Doesn’t 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 (“green card”).

Can I hire international students as volunteer interns?

Normally, if the internship involves no form of compensation and is truly voluntary, the students

may volunteer without having to do any paperwork with the CIS. If, however, the internship

provides a stipend or any compensation, students must obtain permission for practical training or

academic training prior to starting their internship. Students should check with their employers to

ensure that the company is allowed by law to offer unpaid internships.


This document was originally published in 2000 with a grant from NAFSA: Association of

International Educators Region XII. 2004 revision by Laurie Cox, University of Southern

California, and Co-Chair of SCICC (Southern California International Careers Consortium);

co-editors: Lay Tuan Tan, California State University Fullerton, and SCICC Board member

and Phil Hofer, University of La Verne.




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