Work Authorization and Hiring International Students | Weatherhead

Work Authorization and Hiring International Students

Posted 12.13.2006

The Career Development Center (CDC) staff recently attended a workshop presented by two immigration lawyers, Helen Konrad and Mark Rhoads, from the McCandlish Holton Immigration Practice Group. The discussion focused on work authorization and hiring international students, and the information was invaluable for employers and students alike.

Both attorneys are available at no charge to consult with employers and students should immigration issues/questions arise. Among the information provided was an Easy Guide to Hiring Foreign Graduates; it is included below for your convenience.


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 college graduates. For example, CIS (formerly INS) issues tens of thousands of H-1B work visas each year. In addition, graduates of U.S. institutions on F-1 and J-1 visas are eligible for practical training and are hired regularly by U.S. employers.

The two most common mechanisms for hiring foreign graduates are:

I. PRACTICAL TRAINING: For graduates in F-1 student visa status, Option Practical Training allows up to 12 months of employment after graduation. The student must obtain permission from the university foreign student advisor, and a work authorization card from the CIS (formerly INS). Some students (on J visas) may be eligible for up to 18 months of training without even getting a work authorization card from CIS. The university can provide additional information.

Timing: F-1 Graduates can begin working immediately upon receipt of the work authorization card.

Cost: No cost to employer. Student pays a nominal filing fee to CIS to get card.

Employer Obligations: Treat employees on practical training just like other U.S. employees in terms of pay, discipline, termination, etc.

II. 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. The employer must submit a visa petition to the CIS. Approvals can take as little as 15 days.

Employer Obligations: The employer must:

· Post a notice for 10 days at the worksite stating that you are hiring an H-1B worker, providing information about the job. Maintain public access file.

· Pay the same wage and benefits provided to U.S. workers in similar jobs. Pay return transportation in some circumstances.

· There is no need to advertise the position, and no need to determine if U.S. workers are available to fill the position.

Timing: Normal processing times can vary depending on the work location. However, CIS has special “premium processing” which guarantees processing in 15 days. Premium processing requires an extra $1,000 filing fee.

Cost: CIS’ normal filing fee for private employers is $190, plus a $1,500 training fee, and 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 a $750 training fee.) Premium processing (15 day processing) carries an additional $1,000 filing fee to CIS.

H-B Cap: CIS issues 65,000 new H-1B approvals each year (CIS year – October 1 through September 30). Exceptions to the cap: university jobs; non-profits affiliated with universities; nonprofit research organizations; H-1B extension with same employer; H-1B transfer to new employer. Graduates with U.S. advanced degrees have special allocation of 20,000 H-1Bs above the 65,000. Citizens of Chile and Singapore have a special allocation of H-1Bs.

Other visa options may be available (for example, TN for Canadians or Mexicans working in certain jobs; E-3 visa for Australians in professional positions, and other possible options).

For additional information on hiring foreign workers, please contact McCandlish Holton Immigration Practice Group – Mark Rhoads 804-775-3824; Helen L. Konrad 804-775-3825. 1111 East Main Street, Suite 1500, Richmond, VA  23219; fax 804-249-9595.


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