Do not let fear of the simple visa process prevent you from hiring the best and brightest graduates available.
U.S. law provides several ways for employers to hire foreign graduates of U.S. universities. For example, USCIS 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 three most common mechanisms for hiring international graduates are:
- CURRICULAR PRACTICAL TRAINING:
Hiring an F-1 International Student for an Internship. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is work authorization that allows F-1 students to accept practical training in their academic field after one year of full-time study. Internship programs are some of the most common types of CPT opportunities for international students. Students can choose to work full or part-time during their internships, depending on the institution’s CPT policy.
Duration: There is no limit, but 12 months of full-time CPT eliminates eligibility for OPT. Part-time CPT employment does not affect eligibility for OPT.
Employer Role: Applying for CPT is solely the responsibility of the student and therefore requires no action on the part of the hiring organization. (The employer usually needs to issue a letter to confirm the internship offer.)
Student Role: After the student has been offered an internship, he or she submits an online application to the sponsoring school providing the internship start and end dates as well as the organization’s name and complete physical address. The student also needs to provide the job title and a detailed job description. This process is facilitated by the student’s International student services office. In accordance with U.S. immigration regulations, students who engage in part-time or full-time CPT must still be full-time students during the academic year. They do not need to be enrolled full-time during official vacation periods (such as summer).
Cost and Processing Time: There is no cost to the employer. The processing and approval time for CPT is usually within 5-10 working days.
2. OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING:
For graduates in F-1 student status, Optional Practical Training allows up to twelve months of employment after graduation (for those holding Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (“STEM”) degrees, may get 24 additional months). The student must obtain permission from the university, and a work authorization card from USCIS. The university can provide additional information.
Timing: F-1 Graduates can begin working upon the effective date of the work authorization card.
Cost: No cost to employer. Student pays a nominal filing fee to USCIS to get card.
Employer Obligations: Treat employees on practical training just like other U.S. employees in terms of pay, discipline, termination, etc. A brief jointly-developed training plan is required for STEM extensions.
3. H-1B VISAS:
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 6 years, or longer. The employer must submit an application to USCIS. Approvals can take as little as fifteen (15) business days.
- There is no need to advertise the position, and no need to determine if U.S. workers are available to fill the position.
- 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 pay the same wage and benefits provided to U.S. workers in similar jobs. May need to pay return transportation in some circumstances.
Timing: Normal processing times will take several months. However, USCIS has special “premium processing” which guarantees processing in 15 business days, but requires an extra $2,500 filing fee.
Cost: USCIS’ normal filing fee for private employers is $460, plus a $1,500 “training fee”, plus a “fraud prevention” fee of $500. (NOTE: University employers, primary/secondary schools and certain governmental and non- profit research organizations do not pay the “training fee". Employers with 25 or fewer employees pay only $750 "training fee”). Employers with 50 or more employees and more than 50% of workforce in H or L status, additional fees apply.
H-1B Cap: USCIS has a quota of 85,000 new H-1Bs to allocate each year (USCIS year—Oct. 1 through Sept. 30), of which 20,000 go to graduates with U.S. advanced degrees. To claim a quota number, employers submit electronic case registrations with USCIS in March. If the registration is selected, employers will have 90 days to file the H-1B for an Oct. 1 start date. Exceptions to the quota: University jobs; non-profits affiliated with universities; non-profit research organizations; H- 1B extension with same employer; H-1B transfer to new employer. Citizens of Chile and Singapore have a special allocation of H-1Bs.
Special Cases: Some non-profit research and non-profit educational institutions are able to secure H-1Bs not subject to the yearly quota of 85,000. Citizens of Chile and Singapore, through a treaty with the U.S., are provided with a special allocation of 6,800 visas; as a result, these citizens have an easier time securing U.S. work authorization. H-1B1 is given in one year increments, eligible for renewal indefinitely.
*In April 2008, a new law was established to enable those with an approved H-1B application to remain employed during the transition period between the end of OPT and the start of H-1B. The new regulation eliminates any gaps in employment previously experienced in the transition from OPT to H-1B if the H-1B petition is timely filed while the student is still in their approved period of OPT employment, and the H-1B petition is filed with a change of status application effective October 1.
For employers wishing to hire a J-1 status holder, there is no fee involved or action to be taken. The J-1 student simply obtains authorization from his/her program sponsor to work for up to a total of 18 months. PhD. students can work for up to 36 months. It is the sole responsibility of the student to complete the application process with the program sponsor and approval is generally granted within 5-10 working days. The work must be directly related to the academic degree program and is certified by the academic institution's J-1 responsible officer.
TN-1 status: Canadian or Mexican citizens who will be working in the areas listed on the TN- employment list. The current processing fee is $56 at the Border, or it's $160 at the Embassy/Consulates. The status is valid for up to 3 years after which the employee must request an extension of stay through his/her employer.
L-1 status: The L-1 is for intra-company transfees. Employees must work at an affiliated foreign office for a minimum of one year before being transferred to the U.S. The current processing fee is $460 plus a $500 anti-fraud fee. The status is valid for up to three years and may be extended for an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years for managers/executives (L-1A), and five years for workers with specialized knowledge (L-1B).
O-1 status: The O-1 status is a temporary work status available to those foreign nationals who have “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics” which “have been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.” USCIS interprets the statute very broadly to encompass most fields of creative endeavor. For example, chefs, carpenters and lecturers can all obtain O-1 visas. Some recent students may qualify for O-1 status based on their experience, education and contributions to their field of expertise.
E status: The E-1 and E-2 status for Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors allows temporary admission to Foreign Nationals of countries that have a commerce or investment treaty with the United States. The status allows Foreign Nationals to conduct substantial trade in the U.S. or to make investments by either purchasing a controlling interest in an existing U.S. business or establishing a new business venture. Major foreign companies that establish a presence in the United States generally qualify for E-2 status. This status provides an excellent vehicle for easily hiring international graduates who have the same nationality as the foreign base company. Also, unlike the L-1 status which requires at least year prior employment with the foreign entity, E beneficiaries can be new hires (fee varies by country). For most countries, the status is valid for five years, and may be extended indefinitely.
Possible Additional Fees: In some cases, there is a required visa issuance reciprocity fee, if applicable. Please consult the United States Department of State, Visa Reciprocity Tables to find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is.