Guide to Hiring International Students
Easy Guide to Hiring Foreign Students - Provided by McCandlish Holton Immigration Practice Group
The Employer's Guide to Hiring International Students is provided by the UT Austin International Office's International Student & Scholar Services: P.O. Box A, Austin, Texas 78713-8901; Phone: (512) 471-2477.
The University of Texas at Austin enrolls over 4,500 international students on temporary visas. These students are not U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents ("green card holders"), but their UT education combined with their multicultural and multilingual skills make them a potential asset to U.S. employers.
The following information is designed to clarify the legal obligations of both the employer and the international job applicant, and to encourage you as the prospective employer to include these talented graduates in your human resource development plan.
The International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) is willing to discuss these laws and regulations with you, and if requested by an international student, can review the specific legal status of the job applicant enrolled or recently graduated from UT Austin.
Verifying Employment Eligibility: Completing The I-9
The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 did not change the rights and privileges of nonimmigrant students wishing to accept a job in this country. For employers, the new law prescribed specific procedures to be followed in verifying the employment eligibility of every person hired after November 6, 1986. All employees, including international students, must complete the I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification form. This is simply a record that the employer has verified the identity and legal employment eligibility of every person hired.
"Practical Training" Employment After Graduation
International students generally hold the F-1 (foreign student) visa. A few hold the J-1 (exchange visitor student) visa. In both cases, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly known as INS) permits employers to hire students, who have completed their course of study, in a status called "practical training" for F-1 students and "academic training" for J-1 students. USCIS defines practical training as employment related to the student's course of study. Eligible students need not change their visa status to accept this type of employment.
Time Limits for Practical Training
- F-1 students may work for up to twelve months as practical trainees.
- J-1 students may work up to eighteen months on academic training. Post-doctoral fellows are eligible for another eighteen 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.
Little Paperwork for the Employer
All paperwork is handled by the student and ISSS or the J-1 student's program sponsor. In some cases a brief letter offering employment is required.
Long Term Employment: Changing To A Different Visa
Federal regulations require that employment terminate at the conclusion of the training period. However, in most cases, the international student may continue to be employed, provided that a change to another visa type is approved by the immigration service. Following is a description of the most common work visa.
Temporary Worker (H-1B) Visa
- The employer petitions for the H-1B, or Temporary Worker Visa, through the Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
- The employee may hold this visa for up to six years.
- The H-1B visa is intended for "professional" employment.
- These applications should be prepared with careful attention to the documents required for submission to the above government agencies.
- The entire process can take up to 4-6 months to grant the new immigration status to the employee.
- Legal consultation is strongly recommended.
- The quota for H-1B visas is currently set at 65,000 per fiscal year (from October 1 until September 31). Universities and some non-profit research institutions are exempt from the H-1B quota.
A Note About The "Green Card" Or Immigrant Visa Status
We have drawn attention to nonimmigrant visa options above because (1) they often represent a satisfactory alternative to the so-called "green card" or immigrant visa/permanent resident status, and (2) much less time, expense, and paperwork is involved in filing for a nonimmigrant visa than in obtaining the green card.
International students seeking opportunities for post-graduate career employment in this country may intend to return to their home countries, after having established themselves professionally over a period of years, and are therefore suitable candidates for employment in a nonimmigrant visa status. In such cases, efforts to secure the green card are neither necessary nor appropriate.
However, if an employer wanted to retain the services of the valued professional, the employer could choose to sponsor the employee for permanent residency with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. There are several "employment based" preferences, details of which go beyond the current publication.
Points To Remember
- Minimal paperwork required to hire an international employee
- Employment authorization possible for up to seven years without requirement to recruit U.S. workers
- Talented multicultural & multilingual employees
- Assistance in verifying employee eligibility
- No USCIS requirement to recruit U.S. workers when hiring international students on practical training
The Guide to Hiring Foreign Students is provided by the McCandlish Holton Immigration Practice Group - Mark Rhoads, 804-775-3824, 1111 East Main Street #1500, Richmond, VA 23219
Do not let confusion of the visa process prevent you from hiring the best and brightest graduates available.
U.S. law provides several ways for employers to hire foreign college graduates. For example, CIS (formerly INS) issues tens of thousands of H-1B work visas each year. In addition, graduates of U.S. institutions in F-1 status are eligible for "practical training" and are hired regularly by U.S. employers.
The two most common mechanisms for hiring foreign graduates are the following.
For graduates in F-1 student status, Optional Practical Training allows up to 12 months of employment after graduation (for those holding Science, Technology, Engineering or Math degrees, may get 17 additional months). The student must obtain permission from the University, and work authorization card from the CIS. The University can provide additional information.
- Timing: F-1 Graduates can begin working immediately upon receipt of the work authorization card.
- Cost: No cost to employer. Student pays a nominal filing fee to CIS to get card.
- Employer Obligations: Treat employees on practical training just like other U.S. employees in terms of pay, discipline, termination, etc.
This is an extremely popular work visa. It is available to foreign nationals who (a) have at least a U.S. Bachelor's Degree or foreign equivalent and (b) will be working in a job that requires at least a Bachelor's Degree. Allows employment for up to six years, or longer. The employer must submit an application to the CIS. Approvals can take as little as 15 days.
- There is no need to advertise the position, and no need to determine if U.S. workers are available to fill the position. (Sole exception: Employers receiving TARP funding or funding under Section 13 of the Federal Reserve Act must first advertise to recruit U.S. workers. No other employers have this obligation.)
- All employers must post a notice for ten days at the worksite stating that the employer is hiring an H-1B worker, providing information about the job. This is NOT an advertisement. It is just a notice.
- Employers must post the same wage and benefits provided to U.S. workers in similar jobs. Pay return transportation in some circumstances.
Timing: Normal processing times can take several months. However, CIS has special "premium processing" which guarantees processing in 15 days, but requires an extra $1,000 filing fee.
Cost: CIS' normal filing fee for private employers is $320, plus a $1,500 "training fee," plus a "fraud prevention" fee of $500. (NOTE: University employers, primary/secondary schools and certain governmental and nonprofit research organizations do not pay the "training fee." Employers with 25 or fewer employers pay only $750 "training fee.")
H-B Cap: CIS issues 65,00 new H-1B approvals each year (CIS year - October 1 through September 30). CIS accepts cases beginning April 1 for October 1 H-1Bs. Exceptions to the cap: university jobs; nonprofits affiliated with universities; nonprofit research organizations; H-1B extensions with same employer; H-1B transfer to new employer. Graduates with U.S. advanced degrees have special allocation of 20,000 H-1Bs above the 65,000. Citizens of Chile and Singapore have a special allocation of H-1B's.
Other visa options may be available (for example TN for Canadians or Mexicans working in certain jobs; E-3 visa for Australians in professional positions, and other possible options).
Questions: Contact McCandlish Holton Immigration Practice Group - Mark Rhoads 804-775-3824; 111 East Main Street #1500, Richmond, VA 23219