Frequently Asked Questions: Hiring International Students

  • Getting permission for international students to work in the United States is not as difficult as many employers might consider. This page is designed to clarify some common myths and misconceptions about hiring international students.

    Below you will find information that has been summarized from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and additional resources from across the country. We hope this encourages you as the prospective employer to include these talented students in organizations in the future.

    Is it illegal to hire international students because they do not have a green card?

    No. Federal regulations permit the employment of international students on F-1 and J-1 visas within certain limits. These visas allow students to work in jobs related to their major field of study. F-1 students can work under “practical training” provisions in the law, and J-I students may work on “academic training” provisions.

    Can I hire international students as interns (paid and unpaid)?

    Yes. Students obtain authorization for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) from the international student advisor. CPT is employment that is required to successfully complete a course or degree program. OPT is employment that is directly related to the student’s course of study, but is not part of the student’s curriculum.

    How long can international students intern under CPT?

    IUP F-1 visa holders at IUP are eligible for up to four months, full-time, of a paid internship (unless a program requires longer internships—as long as their department issues internship, practicum, or independent study credits connected to a major course of study.

    How long can international student work under OPT?

    F-1 students who have been enrolled in legal status for a minimum of nine months are eligible for up to 12 months, full-time, of OPT work authorization. For every higher and successive degree, students can use 12 months of full-time work permission (OPT). This 12-month period can be broken into smaller periods during pre-completion of a degree or post-completion of a degree. All OPT must be used within 14 months of completion of a program. In addition to the 12 months of OPT, a 17-month extension is available for STEM degrees only.

    Will I have to fill out a lot of paperwork to hire internationals for OPT or CPT?

    Not necessarily. Students are responsible for working with the Office of International Education to obtain and fill out the proper paperwork. In some cases, the students might require a letter from the employer identifying that they have been hired for immigration purposes.

    What is H-1B all about?

    An H-1B visa is a status issued by USCIS for foreign individuals to work in United States legally as a professional for three years, though an additional three-year extension is possible. An employer must file an application for an H-1B applicant. There is a quota of 65,000 H-1B visas issued each year by the USCIS. These are assigned for applicants who have a degree or equivalent working experience to the job they have been hired for. The USCIS implemented an additional 20,000 visas for applicants who have been granted a U.S. advanced degree (master or doctoral).

    Will it cost a lot of money to petition for an H-1B Visa?

    The USCIS charges an application fees that varies depending on company size and profile as well. See the USCIS website for an updated list of fees. The largest cost of the H-1B process tends to be the lawyer fees. Some companies choose to pay for the immigration lawyer for the international job candidate, while others chose to have the candidate pay for the lawyer on their own. Lawyer fees can vary depending upon many factors, such as geographic location and level of experience.