Information for Employers
The following information applies ONLY to international students who have F-1 status. The employment of non-immigrants in other classifications is allowed or restricted by regulations that apply specifically to those classifications. Although the general regulations apply to both academic and English language students, only students in academic programs are eligible for employment outside of campus.
Practical Training is the term that applies to employment of F-1 students in positions that relate to their fields of study. F-1 students must have completed one academic year in F-1 status and must continue to maintain F-1 status to be eligible for Practical Training. There are two different types of Practical Training:
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
- Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Short Term Employment
For students with F-1 visas, there are two types of work authorizations: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). There is also the STEM Extension Optional Practical Training (STEM OPT). The OPT and CPT can be paid or unpaid, but the STEM OPT must be paid. All three require that the employment must be related to the student's field of study.
|Informationation about the Authorization||Duration of and Hours during Employment||Your Role as an Employer|
|Curricular Practical Training (CPT)||
CPT is granted by a Designated School Officer at Minnesota State University-Mankato (MNSU). CPT is used for internships and/or practicum work, so academic and department approval is necessary. A student needs to be enrolled at their undergraduate/ graduate institution while on CPT.
Authorization is given on a term basis. During Fall and Spring semester, students are limited to 20 hours per week, but can work full-time (21 hours or more per week) during the summer.
Provide the student an offer letter of employment.
Request a copy of the CPT I-20 from the student for I-9 purposes.
|Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)||
OPT is for F-1 students who have graduated from their undergraduate institution. F-1 students have to find a position that is related to the field of study.
USCIS grants up to 12 months of employment and most often used for full-time positions immediately following graduation. Full-time is considered as 21 hours or more.
Provide the student an offer of employment.
Request a copy of the EAD from student for I-9 purposes.
|STEM Extension OPT||
STEM OPT is for students with a STEM designated degree working for an E-Verify* employer. The position cannot be volunteer, or unpaid, and self-employment is not allowed. In addition, the student had to graduate with a STEM-eligible major.
Grants a 24-month extension on top of the original 12-month period for OPT. Throughout students' lifetime, they can receive two extensions. The second can be obtained after earning a higher-level STEM degree and obtaining another 12-month OPT.
Provide an offer of employment.
Organization must be participating in E-Verify* and provide student with E-Verify and EIN number.
Complete I-983 Training Plan and attest that wages and compensation are commensurate with “similarly situated U.S. workers”.
Read additional Employer Reporting Requirements.
Long Term Employment (beyond the first year for OPT - or 2 years for STEM)
For longer term employment, International F-1 visa holders will usually need an H-1B visa. There are a limited number of H-1B visas granted every year, but there are special exceptions to the quota for non-profit, educational and research institutions. It grants up to 3 years of employment, but can be extended/renewed up to a total of 6 years.
Your role as an employer includes working with a qualified immigration attorney to prepare and file the petition in a timely manner. Please see the US Citizen & Immigration Services (USCIS) page to find out information about the appropriate application timeline for your type of organization. There are monetary costs associated with this type of visa on the employer's end including attorney and USCIS application fees.
There are other employment-based Visa categories such as H-2A for Temporary Agricultural Workers, and the P-2/3 for artists or entertainers. You can find more information about these categories on the USCIS page for temporary employment.
The information provided here was adapted from Carleton resource for international students.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Isn't it illegal to hire international students because they don't have a green card?
A: No. Federal regulations permit the employment of international students in F-1 status within certain limits. Students in F-1 status are allowed to work in jobs related to their field of study under the Practical Training regulations for CPT (Curricular Practical Training) or OPT (Optional Practical Training).
Q: Even if it isn't illegal to hire international students, doesn't it involve a lot of paperwork and government application fees?
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 Kearney Center for International Student Services (KCISS) at MNSU will help handle all they paperwork for CPT and OPT.
Q: How long can an international student work for my company?
A: If the authorization is for CPT - Curricular Practical Training - the school determines within its internal policies how long a student can work for one employer. Typically, authorization is granted by academic terms. Extensions beyond the first term will depend on those institutional policies. The student should be able to learn those policies and communicate that to their employer.
If the employment is during OPT - Optional Practical Training - the student will be able to work only until the expiration date on their EAD - Employment Authorization Document - whether during their basic 12 month OPT period or the STEM Extension. Employment beyond this date will require employer sponsorship for a work visa.
Q: What if my company doesn't offer "trainee" positions? Can I still offer employment to an international student?
A: The nature of permitted employment under CPT is the prerogative of institutional policies. At the MNSU, the job does not have to be classified as a "trainee" position or "entry level" position to qualify for CPT. For OPT, the student is responsible for seeking and accepting appropriate employment.
Q: Don't international students need work authorization before I can hire them?
A: No. International students must have work authorization before they "begin" actual employment, but not before they are offered employment. In fact, a student must have been offered a job in order to receive CPT authorization. For employment during OPT, the student may or may not already have their employment authorization, but regardless, should be able to provide the employer a reasonable date as to when they are able to begin work.
Q: How much should an international student be paid?
A: Student's should be paid a reasonable wage commensurate with their duties, education and position within the company. Typically, students who are still working toward their degrees are paid less than fully-qualified (Degreed) workers in the same field. Students who have completed their studies and received their degree or other qualifying credential should be paid accordingly.
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 an F-1 visa. Even if sponsoring a student for an H-1 visa, the employer only has to certify that the conditions of employment of a foreign national are the same as those of an American employee. (Employers should seek the advice of a qualified immigration attorney when considering sponsoring a student for an H-1 visa.) It is only when sponsoring a foreign national for a permanent position and a green card must the employer document that they did not turn down a qualified American applicant.