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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 theF-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-1visas 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 FormI-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 permissionfrom the USCIS will be issued an EmploymentAuthorization Document (EAD), which is necessary before thestudent can work in the U.S. and which will verify those dates that the studentis eligible to work.

Hiring an international student to workfor 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 studentwith 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 muchto 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 toweather the inherent complexities of livingand studying in a foreign country. Additionally, these students are oftenbilingual, which can be beneficial in nearly any work environment. 

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

Should you have any questions about how this impacts you, your business, or your employees, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at support@bridge.us.

Disclaimer: This content is not a form of legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for legal counsel. Bridge US encourages readers to discuss any and all immigration-related concerns with an attorney.

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