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Hiring International Students
The information below will be helpful whether you currently hire, or are simply considering hiring, any of our numerous international students for a co-op position. Contrary to misconceptions, this is a simple process and hiring international co-op students can be extremely beneficial to an organization.
If you have questions about hiring international students, please feel free to contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our co-op advisors who works with F-1 students will assist you.
Why hire an international student?
- Provide your company with global and cultural perspectives
- Add diversity to your workplace
- Assist your organization in making global contacts
- Engage your staff in cross-cultural experiences
- Bring a fresh perspective into the workplace
- Help staff develop a greater perspective of world affairs
- Are considered to be among the brightest and most highly motivated people from their home countries
- Tend to be fluent in at least two languages (or are multilingual)
- Have the fortitude to tackle the unknown
Are international students legally eligible to work in the United States?
Yes! Federal regulations permit the employment of international students on F-1 and exchange visitor student J-1 visas, with certain limits.
These students may work off-campus after completing nine months of full-time study and obtaining the proper work authorization from their school's international student office. The Steinbright Career Development Center vets and authorizes that all international co-op students have met the nine months of full-time study requirement. Students obtain work authorization as Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for cooperative education positions from the Office of International Student and Scholars Services (ISSS) at Drexel University.
The employer does not need to provide work authorization; students are responsible for completing the process of work authorization.
Co-op employers should be aware of the policies and recommended best practices of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as it relates to pre-employment inquiries regarding citizenship and equal employment practices, including refraining from discriminating on the basis of national origin and/or immigration and citizenship status.
How long can international students work on co-op?
Students on an F-1 visa may work on co-op, using CPT, for the length of time their academic program designates or requires for graduation. At Drexel University, this is between six to eighteen months. CPT is a type of employment authorization that allows F-1 students to work in the U.S. while on co-op as this is part of the required curriculum for graduation. Co-op employment must be related to the F-1 student's major and provides practical training.
There are two types of CPT students can obtain: part-time CPT and full-time CPT. On part-time CPT, students are only authorized to work 20 hours/week. On full-time CPT, students are authorized to work 21 or more hours/week.
Students on J-1 visas are eligible to work legally in the U.S. using Academic Training (AT). AT is designed to allow J-1 students the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off-campus.
Students may be eligible to obtain Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows them to work part-time during class or vacation terms or upon graduation.
In order to hire an international student, what is required from the employer?
Employers begin by extending an offer of employment to the students. Once a student accepts an offer, the process of work authorization begins.
Work authorization is handled by the student and the Drexel University Office of International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS).
Students are instructed to bring the proper documentation to the company, when they begin their employment, to complete the I-9 form.
Employers will note that each period of employment must be authorized and that students who return to the same employer for several co-op positions must be reauthorized for each one.
Employers will need to request a copy of the student's I-20/DS-2019 for their records. This is the only additional paperwork that is required. View a sample I-20/DS-2019 [PDF].
If employers have more specific questions about hiring or onboarding an international student for co-op, Steinbright encourages consultation with the employers' internal human relations office or legal counsel.
What about taxes?
International students pay all applicable federal, state, and city/local taxes. However, they are exempt from paying FICA (Medicare and Social Security) taxes.
For more information, please contact Drexel's Tax Office.
Do students need a Social Security number before they can start their co-op?
Yes, if the international student is receiving compensation for the work, then the student will need to have a Social Security number before starting work.
However, an international student can start working without a Social Security number as long as the student has a confirmation of Social Security number request from the Social Security Administrative office. Generally speaking, the time of application for a Social Security number to the time that students have it in their possession is approximately two to three weeks.
For an unpaid co-op, international students do not need a Social Security number and can start working without one.
Can students work part-time after their co-op ends and they have returned to class?
It is possible, but only for students eligible for Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (Pre-OPT).
Guidelines for Pre-OPT:
- International students may be authorized to participate in Pre-OPT after they have been enrolled for one full academic year.
- Students authorized to participate in Pre-OPT may only work part-time (no more than 20 hours/week) while school is in session and may work full-time (40 hours/week) when school is not in session or during their vacation/term off.
- The Pre-OPT must be directly related to the student's course of study. The application process for Pre-OPT requires up to 90 days processing time by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Students can visit the International Student and Scholars Services Office at Drexel University to apply.
- Time granted on Pre-OPT is deducted from the one year of OPT. Part-time Pre-OPT is counted at a half-rate. Example: Four months part-time Pre-OPT is subtracted (from the total 12 months OPT) as two months. Using Pre-OPT limits the length of time students can work in the United States post-graduation without a sponsoring employer.
What does it mean if a student's visa shows an expiration date that has passed?
Students can remain and work in the U.S., even if their visa date has expired. (Note: The student visa and the student's I-20 are two different documents.) They are still in the U.S. on a valid visa and will only need to renew their visa if they leave the country. Please be aware that if students leave the country and return home (even for a vacation) when their visa is expired, it can take three to four weeks for their visa to be renewed. Keep this in mind when approving student vacations and/or time off work, and consider discussing this with the student prior to approving any time off.
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