Immigration rules for employers and their international student employees can be confusing and have changed recently. Here is some helpful information for employers recruiting international students.
1. Some international students can work during school if approved by their school for Curricular Practical Training (also called CPT). CPT is approved by the school’s DSO (Designated School Officer) and is indicated on the student’s Form I-20 that is issued and signed by the DSO. Prior full-time use of CPT for a year or more can render students’ ineligible for the OPT work authorization outlined below.
2. Optional Practical Training (also called OPT) provides work authorization but must be approved by US CIS. OPT can be issued for up to 20 hours per week before graduation when school is in session, part-time/full- time when school is not in session, and for part-time/full- time employment after graduation. OPT work must directly relate to the student’s major. Students receive a cumulative total of 12 months OPT unless they qualify for a STEM extension referenced below.
3. Students with a degree in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) may be eligible for a 24-month extension of OPT work authorization. They must have a job offer with an E-Verify company that will adhere to an approved training plan related to their degree. Helpful information on requesting this extension can be found here – https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt- extension-overview
4. Timing is everything for international students seeking work authorization. For example, requests for traditional 12-month post-completion OPT must be filed with US CIS in the 90-day window before graduation for employment that begins in the 60-day window after graduation. International students should coordinate closely with their DSO (Designated School Officer) at their school to make sure their work authorization applications are filed on-time, including valid I-20s and all appropriate forms and supporting documents. Most DSO’s offer helpful checklists and support to students in this process.
5. International students must report changes to their address and employment to the DSO, even after graduation, so the DSO can update SEVIS. SEVIS is the system that tracks international student immigration information. Note that there are limits on an international students’ periods of unemployment, which vary depending on the type of OPT received. International travel on OPT status can also be risky, especially when the OPT is pending, there is no current job offer, or an H-1B change of status petition is pending. For any work changes, unemployment, or travel abroad, students should consult with their DSO’s or a qualified immigration attorney for guidance.
Planning to hire international students? Contact us first
If you have questions about your options or strategy for hiring global talent, please contact the attorneys at Antonini & Cohen Immigration Law Group for assistance. Our attorneys have many years of experience in all areas of immigration law.