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F-1 Visa to OPT: Hiring International Students

Bridge Team Member

Hiring international students in the U.S.can be a great option for employers, but as with nearly everything else involving the hire of non-immigrant workers, it’s not without complications. Most international students are in the U.S. on non-immigrant student visas like the F-1, and within specific parameters, these students can legally accept employment. 

F-1 Visas & Practical Training

Students who are studying in the U.S.on F-1 visas can legally engage in practical training, which is employment in an area that relates to their field of academic study. This practical training mechanism allows international students to accept paying jobs in the U.S.while they continue to pursue their degrees or immediately after they graduate. 

To qualify for practical training, international students must – in general – have completed one academic year in college with F-1 visa status and must maintain their F-1 status to remain eligible. 

Optional Practical Training

The form of practical training that is employment-based, rather than curricular-based, is Optional Practical Training (OPT), which must be authorized through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and which is based on the recommendation of the designated school official (DSO) at the institution of higher learning that issued the international student’s Form I-20

The optional part of this training refers to the student’s option to use any portion of their total allotment of practical training, which maxes out at 12 months. The USCIS can authorize OPT in a variety of different situations: 

· Full-time employment is admissible during vacations or periods when school isn’t in session;

· When school is in session, students can work a maximum of 20 part-time hours each week; and

· Students can work full-time after their course of study is complete.

Employee Authorization Document

A student who’s obtained OPT permission from the USCIS will be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which is necessary before the student can work in the U.S. and which will verify those dates that the student is eligible to work.

Hiring an international student to work for you is as simple and as complicated as that. While you, as the employer, aren’t necessarily required to jump through any hoops, you can’t hire a student with permission to participate in paid OPT until that student has obtained anEAD, which can take several months from the time of application. 

Hiring Students with F-1 Visas

International students often have much to offer U.S. employers. Because they’re already in the U.S. as students, they’ve already demonstrated that they have the flexibility and wherewithal to weather the inherent complexities of living and studying in a foreign country. Additionally, these students are often bilingual, which can be beneficial in nearly any work environment. 

While students working under F-1 visas have very limited tenure, many of these students are able to parlay the F-1into a petition for another employment-based visa, usually the H-1B visa, which can further enhance their value as long-term employees.

Additional Questions? Our approach to service is high-touch and personally-oriented, emphasizing process transparency and clear communication to relieve applicant anxiety and assure that nothing falls through the cracks. Operating as a proactive and seamless extension of your own team, we streamline and manage your immigration processes at every stage. Find out what we can do for your company.

Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.


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