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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Massachusetts’ Immigrant Program for Students

Massachusetts has created a loophole program, called Global Entrepreneur in Residence (GER), to permit foreign students to stay legally in the US.

Foreign students who attended college in Massachusetts and who want to pursue entrepreneurial activities in the state can apply to the GER Program, which is being run by the Massachusetts Tech Collaborative, an independent state agency designed to promote the advancement of technology in the state. Chosen individuals will be given a job at a participating universities in Massachusetts—the students will work part-time and will submit visa applications sponsored by the university. The program is expected to grow 46,000 jobs for students.

US immigration law dictates that foreign students can study at US colleges and universities under a student visa—after they graduate, their visas expire and they have to find a US employer to sponsor them for an H-1B visa. The H-1B visa system inherently poses a disadvantage for entrepreneurs, the system only allows for a once-per-year application process—in the form of a lottery—and the slots fill up quickly. On April 7, 2014, USCIS reported that it had secured its quota of 85,000 H-1B visa petitions only five days after it began receiving applications.

This is why the GER Program’s loophole is important: colleges and universities are immune to the cap and can submit applications for employers at any time. This means foreign graduates have a higher chance of obtaining a visa through the GER Program, and through employment with higher-education institutions, because these institutions are exempt from the cap.

The House bill proposed to devise a new category of startup visas for foreign entrepreneurs, while also raising the amount of H-1B visas accessible to immigrants with advanced degrees. While the Massachusetts program is yet to be funded, this is a great start for foreign graduates whom the US needs to retain!

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.

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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