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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The Struggle Over STEM Immigration

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates are foreign-born students who have obtained graduate degrees from American universities in one of these four fields. Many of these students are vying for a green card to stay in the US; but the demand for green cards far outstripped supply. The result is that the best and the brightest are leaving the US for greener immigration pastures: either going back home, or to other more ‘immigrant’ friendly countries, like Canada.

In a previous blog post, I discussed how STEM graduates will help the US come out of its recession. We are currently experiencing a brain drain; and in order to remain a global force, we must reform our immigration policies. Multiple bills suggesting an increase in green cards for STEM graduates have been proposed to Congress, but none have yet to pass.

STEM Jobs Act

On Friday, November 30, the House passed the STEM Jobs Act, which reallocates 55,000 green cards per year to students with STEM degrees; the new act also seeks to remove the lottery green card program. Green cards are first made available to STEM graduates with PhDs — remaining green cards are then given to STEM graduates with Masters.

Dueling Bills

We must applaud both political parties for their sensitivity to the issue of STEM jobs, but there is a very obvious political divide. While the Republican initiative moves to abolish the 55,000 diversity visas, the Democrats want to preserve these visas for persons from under-represented countries.

This uncertainty is keeping employers from hiring qualified candidates, and keeping qualified US graduates from the US. Keep in mind, by most accounts, the education industry is a $27 billion industry with a multiplier effect on local economies.

What can we do?

Employers must lobby their Senate and House Representatives about the issue. The inaction is holding our economy hostage.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
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 2012. All rights reserved.

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