Off-Campus Work

From F1/J1 to H-1B

Given the recent and numerous changes in federal laws governing the employment of non-citizens, prospective employers may be uncertain about hiring someone who is not a U.S. citizen. It is for this reason that we would like to clarify the regulations regarding international students, particularly F-1 students.

It is important to clarify that F-1 students in good standing are only allowed to work on-campus at the university they are attending. There are three exceptions to this rule: (1) off-campus work for economic hardship, (2) curricular practical training or (3) optional practical training. These options are described in question/answer form below. For the on-campus work, international students can apply through the university student employment office for a variety of campus jobs. There are no extra forms that need to be completed, as long as the student stays in status as a full-time student.

Can international students work in the United States?

International students generally hold either F-1 (student) or J-l (exchange ~visitor, scholar) visas while studying in the United States. F-1 and J-1 students in good standing are eligible for any on-campus employment at their university while they are enrolled. They can work up to 20 hours a week during the semester and up to 40 hours a week during breaks.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) permits students in both visa categories to be employed full-time by U.S. employers through the "Practical Training" program following completion of their program of study.

What is Curricular Practical Training?

Students that have been in F-1 status for at least nine months may apply to participate in a Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program which is defined as an integral part of an established curriculum (such as: Alternative work/study, internship, or cooperative education) for which academic credits are awarded. Graduate students in programs which require training are not bound to the "nine months in F-1 status" requirement.

What is Optional Practical Training?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is intended to provide hands-on practical experience complementary to the academic program. Students on practical training are still considered to be F-1 students at the University of Nevada, Reno, even though they may be working elsewhere in the United States. Students must have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by the USCIS before employment may legally begin. The student is responsible for applying for the EAD; the employer is burdened by any part of the application process.

Work based on Economic Hardship for F-1 Students

Students in F-1 status may apply for work based on economic hardship if they have: (a) maintained full-time status, (b) been in the U.S. for over 9 months, and (c) experienced an unforeseen financial situation that has created an economic hardship.

If training or employment will be longer than 12 months, students should consider changing their status during the period of practical training to an H-1B visa, a non-immigrant temporary working visa which allows one to work for up to six years.

OPT may be used in a variety of ways. Most international students apply for full-time employment authorization upon graduating from the university. A total of 12 months of full-time work authorized by the USCIS is granted. Some may apply to do OPT part-time during the program of study. During vacations such as summer, full-time OPT is allowed. Commonly, our office only authorizes full-time OPT following completion of studies evidenced by a supporting letter from the student advisor.

How long are students eligible to work?

A student on an F- 1 visa is eligible for up to a total of 12 months of employment before or after completion of his/her degree. Students with J- 1 visa status are eligible for a total of 18 months of employment before completion of their degree or following graduation.

How do students obtain permission to work?

A student on an F-1 visa may obtain an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) from the USCIS upon recommendation of his/her school. Students must submit the appropriate BCIS forms, as well as a fee. Adjudication may take a month or two.

A J- 1 visa holder receives authorization directly from his/her school after receipt of a job offer and needs a letter of permission from his or her sponsor.

What must a company do to employ an international student?

An employer need only complete an I-9 form as for any new employee. Employers do not have to:

  • Sponsor a student for a green card
  • Prove that no U.S. citizen is available to do the job
  • Complete any special paperwork, other than the usual for U.S. citizens.

What will the student have as proof of employability for off-campus work?

A student that holds an F-1 visa will receive a laminated EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card, which looks similar to a driver license. It is issued by the USCIS upon receipt of the student application and recommendation from the student school.

J-1 visa holder is authorized by his or her school and will receive an extended DS-2019 (pink immigration form) once he or she has a letter proving a job offer.

Should taxes be withheld from the student pay

Contributions for Social Security should not be withheld from wages on non-immigrant students on authorized practical training; however, earnings from student employment are usually subject to federal and state income taxes. Refer to IRS publications 518 and 519 for additional information.

What if a company wants to extend the student employment?

Students are eligible to apply for an H-1B (temporary worker) visa, which can provide three to six additional years of employment. A student on an F-1 visa, or a student on a J-1 visa not subject to a home residency requirement, may continue to be employed, provided that a change of visa status—usually to H-1B—is applied for and approved by the USCIS. It is only valid for employment with the company that petitioned the student. The international student who has graduated must reapply to the USCIS if he or she wishes to change firms.

What role does the company play in obtaining an H-1B visa?

Employers should apply for an H-1B petition a few months before practical training expires. Employers must obtain an approved Labor Condition application from the local Department of Labor office attesting to salary and working conditions in order to file for the H-1B visa. The cost for processing this paperwork may be absorbed by the employer or the employee, according to the employers policies.

Are there any restrictions on obtaining an H-1B visa?

A student on a J- 1 visa may be subject to a home residency requirement. This requires the student to return home for two years after the completion of practical training before changing to another visa status in the United States. He or she is ineligible for H-1B status until the residency requirement is fulfilled or waived.

What are the advantages of hiring an international student?

International students can offer employers a wide range of skills and abilities:

  • Multiple language skills
  • Flexibility and ability to adapt to new situations
  • Knowledge of business practices in another country
  • Proven intercultural abilities
  • Demonstrated motivation
  • A U.S. education
  • Proven English language ability and an understanding of American culture

As with all regulations and laws, there are exceptions to every rule and according to specific situations. If you have any other questions or need clarifications regarding a particular case or situation, please feel free to contact OISS.