International Students and Scholars Office

Why Hire International Students And What You Should Know Before You Do

Why International Students are The Talent You Are Looking For

The National Association of Colleges and Employers cite “Global and Intercultural Fluency” as one of the most in-demand career readiness skills that are sought upon graduation (Source). However, there seems to be a disconnect between what companies know is valuable and how they can view international students as a way to fill those talent needs, if at all. This document will demystify the process and address the myths of hiring international talent. 

At Cal Poly Pomona international students represent 7% (or over 1,800 students) of the student population and come from more than 44 countries, with Cal Poly Pomona ranked in the top 10% of schools who serve international students (Source, 2020). The number of international students in the U.S. has risen to over 1 million in the last decade (Source).Organizations today are connected globally and those who hire international students have a competitive advantage. International students bring great value to any organization and contribute to its success in many ways.

There are various misconceptions about hiring international students, but it is not much different than hiring local students. The following information provides clarity on aspects of hiring international students and can help your organization regarding U.S. immigration rules.

  • International students are authorized by the university’s International Student & Scholars Office (ISSO) to work under Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for internships and jobs during the course of their studies and by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for Optional Practical Training (OPT) for work after completion of their degrees.
  • In terms of process and cost, students own the responsibility of completing the paperwork and submitting it the appropriate party, whether ISSO or USCIS.
  • There is no need to apply for or sponsor any visas during CPT and OPT periods.
  • There are no extra costs and in fact, employers save approximately 8% of students' salaries due to exemptions from Social Security and Medicare tax requirements (FICA taxes).

Advantages of hiring international students include:

  • New perspectives and problem-solving skills
  • Global/Intercultural Fluency- the ability to value, respect and learn from diversity. Demonstrate openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity and excel in diverse workplaces (Source)
  • Proficient in different languages and have knowledge of the markets, business practices, and cultures of other countries
  • Courage to tackle the unknown and adapt to new environments
  • And STEM student can be especially helpful to small businesses! (Source)

How to Hire International Students

How to Hire Currently Enrolled Students for Internships

International students do not require visa sponsorships to participate in U.S. internships.  All international students are eligible to work in internships after the first year of their programs and do not require visa sponsorships from organizations. Most students hold F-1 status levels and qualify through a grant of Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Work authorization is issued by Cal Poly Pomona’s International Students & Scholars Office. Hiring international students requires no more paperwork than hiring U.S. workers. The only paperwork that will be required to hire an international student is a Job Offer Letter. Please click here to download a template of required information.

How to Hire Graduating International Students for Full-Time Positions

Getting permission for international students to work in the U.S. is not as difficult as many employers think. Most international students are in the U.S. on non‐immigrant student visas (F‐ 1 and J ‐1), and these international students are eligible to accept employment under certain conditions. 

International students have at least 12 months of U.S. work authorization after graduation and STEM students are eligible for 24-month extensions. Upon graduation, all F-1 students have U.S. work authorization for 12 months through a grant of Optional Practical Training (OPT). STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students can receive extensions of 24 months, thus allowing them to work full-time for 36 months after completion of their degrees. During this period employers do not need to secure work authorization from USCIS. There are no extra costs and this becomes the first step to ensuring smooth transitions while converting these employees to long-term hires.

Tax Considerations

Unless exempt due to a tax treaty, F‐1 and J‐1 students earning income while working on practical training are subject to applicable federal, state, and local income taxes. Information on tax treaties may be found in Internal Revenue Services Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, and 901, U.S. Tax Treaties.

Generally, F‐1 and J‐1 students are exempt from Social Security and Medicare tax requirements. However, if F‐1 and J‐1 students are considered "resident aliens" for income tax purposes, Social Security and Medicare taxes should be withheld. Chapter 1 of Internal Revenue Services Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens explains how to determine the residency status of international students. More information on Social Security and Medicare taxes can be found in Chapter 8 of Internal Revenue Services Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens and in Section 940 of Social Security Administration Publication No. 65‐008, Social Security Handbook.

Frequently Asked Questions

No, not initially. The most common type of student visa (F-1) allows for an initial 12 months of full-time work authorization. This is called Optional Practical Training (OPT) and is a direct benefit of the student’s current F-1 visa status. The student simply applies for OPT through Cal Poly Pomona. The International Students and Scholars Office directly assists students and processes all of the OPT application materials with United States Citizen & Immigration Services, or (USCIS).

Fortunately, there is little paperwork for an employer who hires F‐1 students. All initial paperwork is handled by the students, the school, and USCIS. Only a Job Offer Letter will be needed for CPT, and OPT does not require even an offer letter.

No. The student pays the OPT application fee directly to United States Citizen & Immigration Services (USCIS). There is no cost to the employer.

No formal job offer is necessary to apply for OPT. The student applies for OPT independently as they prepare to graduate and pursue employment in the US. An employer does not need to take any action for a student to apply for and obtain OPT. However, any employment undertaken while on OPT must be related to the student’s specific academic major.

For students who majored in STEM fields (sciences, technology, engineering or mathematics) an OPT extension of 24 months is available to the student. As before, the international student reapplies for the 24-month STEM OPT extension through the Cal Poly Pomona International Students and Scholars Office and USCIS.

This website outlines everything you need to know.

No. There is no such employer requirement for hiring international students with OPT and AT. To apply in the future for an H-1B visa, an employer only needs to demonstrate that the specific employment can be broadly defined as a “specialty occupation” with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree required for the position.

Federal regulations require that students terminate their employment at the conclusion of the authorized practical or academic training. However, students on an F‐1 visa, or students on a J‐ 1 visa who are not subject to a two‐year home residency requirement, may continue to be employed, if they receive approval for a change in visa category‐ usually to an H‐1B. Students must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in order to qualify for H‐1B status.

Individuals may work in the U.S. for a maximum of six years under an H‐1B visa (Source). This visa is valid only for employment with the company that petitioned for them. They must re‐apply to the USCIS if they wish to change employers. As soon as the initial job offer is made, they should petition for an H‐1B visa if employment is likely to extend beyond the practical training period.

US Permanent Residency (Green Card) is not an immediate requirement when hiring an international student. Conceivably an international employee could work for 12 months, plus an additional 24 months for STEM students, plus up to an additional 6 years with an H-1B visa before permanent residency would be necessary. Permanent residency has a variety of both employment-based and family-based avenues that differ greatly based on a person’s education, type of employment, citizenship, etc. (Source)

  • Current US immigration regulations allow for a variety of different types of specific visas for areas of employment such as nursing, investing, intercompany transfers, and foreign media employees among others. (Source)
  • Citizens of Mexico and Canada can take advantage of special employment provisions under the Trade NAFTA (TN) agreement (Source)

Yes.  These are great resources.

Brought to you by Cal Poly Pomona’s International Students and Scholars Office and Career Center. Adapted from the following sources:

Key Terms

Practical training is a legal means by which F‐1 students can obtain employment in areas related to their academic field of study. Students, in general, must have completed one academic year (approximately nine months) in F‐1 status and must maintain their F‐1 status to be eligible for practical training. There are two types of practical training:

  1. Optional Practical Training
  2. Curricular Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) must be authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) based on a recommendation from the designated school official (DSO) at the school which issued the I‐20 to the student. Form I‐20 is a government document which verifies the student's admission to that institution. Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT for each degree level. Students who obtain a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) may be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT.

Pre‐Completion OPT can be used by F‐1 students prior to the completion of their studies. Students can request to work:

  • part‐time, a maximum of 20 hours per week, while school is in session
  • full‐time during vacation when school is not in session or
  • full‐time/part‐time after completing all course requirements for the degree excluding thesis or equivalent.

Post‐Completion OPT can be authorized for full time employment after completion of the course of study.

STEM OPT Extension can be authorized for an additional 24 months if student is currently on post‐completion OPT has completed all course requirements (excluding thesis or equivalent) for a bachelorʼs, masterʼs or doctoral degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) has a job or job offer (must be at least 20 hours per week) from an employer registered in USCIS E‐verify Program

Cap‐Gap OPT can be granted if student (1) is in a period of authorized post‐completion OPT, and (2) is the beneficiary of a timely‐filed H‐1B petition requesting change of status and an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. The Cap‐Gap OPT is an automatic extension of duration of status and employment authorization to bridge the gap between the OPT and start of H‐1B status. The automatic extension of OPT is terminated upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H‐1B petition.

Students who have received OPT permission will be issued an EAD by the USCIS. Their name, photo and valid dates of employment are printed on the EAD. Employers should note that the average processing time for USCIS to issue the EAD is two or three months, and students may begin employment only after they receive the EAD which will indicate the start and end dates of employment. Students who have a pending STEM extension application can continue working for up to 180 days while the application is pending.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) may be authorized by the institution (NOT by USCIS) for F‐1 students participating in curricular‐related employment such as cooperative education, work study, practicum and internship programs. Authorization is indicated on page 2 of the I‐20 and includes the name of the company, start and end dates, and signature of the designated school official (DSO). Since each institution has different policies related to curricular‐ related employment, students should speak to the DSO at their institution. Processing time for the authorization of CPT varies at each institution, and students may begin employment only after they receive the CPT work authorization on their I‐ 20. International students on F‐1 visas are eligible for both CPT before finishing their studies, as well as 12 months of OPT. However, students who work full‐ time on CPT for one year or more are not eligible for OPT.
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