How to Employ A Foreign Student

Last year I gave a presentation at a local University to employers about the advantages of employing students from foreign countries, here in student visa status.  The Director of the Career Center told me that local employers were afraid of the process involved in hiring them!

To this I say Pshaw!!!  Look at the untapped potential for a wonderful talented employee, who is willing and wanting to learn and be part of the employing company.  Imagine that student has already passed several hurdles such as qualifying to enter a prestigious University, probably has a revealed a superior understanding of her subject and has demonstrated to University admission officers and professors at their college that she can match the best of any local talent!  These students have probably passed several more exams in an effort to enter an American University!  Does that not show grit and hard work – truly American as apple pie! Like the old E.F. Hutton ad said, “they earned it”.

How to hire a student on an F-1 visa?

  • Do they have an OPT (Optional Practical Training) granted at the end of a course of academic education. If yes, Non STEM students can work up to 12 months and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) students can work for up to 29 months for an employer.
  • STEM students have 2 bites at the H1B apple. STEM students can apply twice for an H1B visa while in OPT status and can stay employed for at least 6 more years with the employer, so the training is not wasted!
  • The student should be in valid F-1 status
  • Proposed employment should relate to the student’s academic work
  • New Obama executive orders will expand and extend the use of OPT
  • CPT – Curricular Practical Training A student can work either part time or full time for an employer during the course of their study as either an employee, an intern (paid or unpaid), in a cooperative (co-op) educational experience, or as a practicum participation in the field of their major.
  • Full time CPT will reduce entitlement to OPT.

This is a great way to test the waters.  There are many foreign students with experience who are at University in a Master’s program or even a second Bachelor’s degree.

Caveat! Employ a student from an accredited University, please.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA


This blog is not intended as legal advice nor is it to be construed as creating a attorney client relationship!

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Can OPT lead to H1B?

As we get into the H1B filing season for 2015 (H1Bs are filed in 2014 for the following year), students on F1 visas and their employers are anxious about being selected in the H1B lottery.

This year like last, I suspect the demand will overwhelm availability of H1B visas for student and other applicants. Last year, USCIS received 124,000 applications for 65,000 H1B visas, including 20,000 H1B visas set aside for US Master degree holders.

STEM Students

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students are at an advantage. They are able to avail of OPT (optional practical training) for 29 months, and hence get two bites of the H1B apple. They can apply this year and the next while maintaining status in F visa and being lawfully present in the US.

The advantage is that the student:

  • Can work full time.
  • Would qualify for the cap gap extension.
  • Can apply for the 17-month extension

The Takeaway

In essence, a STEM student on 29 month OPT gets 2 bites of the H1B apple, because the sponsoring employer is able to apply again the following year if the student is not selected in the H1B lottery the first time.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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