What To Know About Hiring International Students

By Julia Dunn on June 14, 2016

Employers may think that hiring international students is a complicated process that will signify a large undertaking in terms of liability.

What they don’t know is that hiring international students has become a more streamlined process that reduces employer liability by ensuring the student follows necessary procedures to become work-eligible in the United States.

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The Logistics

According to San Francisco State University’s informational pamphlet, “Getting permission for international students to work in the U.S. is not as difficult as many employers think. Most international students are in the U.S. on non-immigrant student visas (F-1 and J-1), and these international students are eligible to accept employment under certain conditions.”

If an F-1 student tries to obtain employment in areas related to their academic field of study, they can do so legally via practical training, which essentially “allows international students to undertake paid work in the U.S. while they are still pursuing their studies as well as immediately following their graduation.”

Generally, to become eligible for practical training, students must have completed around nine months (or one full academic year) in F-1 status, enough to maintain that status.

Practical training comes in two forms: optional and curricular.

Optional Practical Training “must be authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) based on a recommendation from the designated school official (DSO) at the school which issued the form I-20, a government document which verifies the student’s admission to that institution.” This training is “optional” in that students can choose whether they want to use all or only part of their total practical training allotment (12-month maximum).

The USCIS can authorize OTP in 4 scenarios: (1) during vacation when school is not in session, full-time employment is allowed; (2) for part-time work, a maximum of 20 hours per week, while school is in session; (3) after completing all course requirements for the degree; or (4) full-time after completion of the course of study.

San Francisco State University documents outline that “Curricular Practical Training may be authorized by the institution (NOT by USCIS) for F-1 students participating in curricular-related employment such as cooperative education, work study, practicum and internship programs.”

As articulated by the University of Texas, Austin’s International Student & Scholar office, there are two time limits for practical training specific to F-1 or J-1 students, which are as follows:

•“F-1 students may work for up to 12 months as practical trainees. Certain students who have graduated with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math may be eligible for a 17-month extension of authorization for a total of 29 months.”

•“J-1 students may work up to 18 months on academic training. Post-doctoral fellows are eligible for an additional 18 months of academic training. Some J-1 students are subject to a ‘two-year home country residence’ requirement and are prohibited from continuing beyond academic training employment on the H-1B visa unless the requirement is waived.”

Image via Pixabay

The Power of International Students

Employers should consider international students to be great assets as employees. It takes incredible amounts of strength and bravery to even pursue work in a completely new country, which may stand out to an employer in particular because of their ambition and courageous attitude.

Employers who have international students as employees have valuable sources of input, creative ideas and alternative perspectives that can inform their success in the workplace. For instance, an international student who has lived in Korea for 20 years may provide a unique point of view on accomplishing tasks when working in the U.S exactly because they have experienced a different culture with different values, traditions and principles. Hiring qualified international students is crucial to not only preserve diversity in the workplace but also keep the workplace inclusive of all students.

One other advantage of hiring international students it that while most most college graduates leave in less than a couple of years, F-1 students must stay between seven to 12 years to receive permanent residency. This means working may be an incentive more so for an international student than a non-international student.

Additionally, many students who have come to the U.S. from another country are proficient (if not fluent) in one or more languages beyond their native language. This is not only a strong practical skill, but it demonstrates cognitive dexterity that can be positively applied to any job position. The more languages your employees can speak, the more widely your team can communicate with different people.

Most businesses or offices can benefit from different ways of resolving problems, and creativity lies in students whose points of view are unique. There is more of a demand now for creative students with critical minds, and given that international students have come from a different country, they have probably observed at least two different lifestyles and thus more than one style of problem solving directly attributed to living in their home country.

Again, hiring a student who can offer varying styles of problem solving enhances the diversity of your workforce, and can foster a lot of innovation. Different cultural perspective can also provide a fresh change that can revive the workplace if it feels a bit flat to begin with.

Employers should not avoid hiring international students for fear that the hiring process will be complicated, or that it will be more difficult to train them compared to U.S. students. International students deserve immense respect for their initiative to work in a foreign country despite the challenges that may accompany this endeavor. Furthermore, these students should be able to access on and off-campus employment opportunities to further develop their professional skills and adjust to living in the U.S., especially if they plan on staying for a long time.

By Julia Dunn

Uloop Writer
UC Santa Cruz
A writer, editor and educator based in Northern California.

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