What Employers Need to Understand About Hiring OPT Students

What Employers Need to Understand About Hiring OPT Students

Many employers in the United States prefer hiring international students in order to instill new ideas and fresh perspective in their organisations. The students also benefit from this program apart from the company hiring OPT students, because they are able to extend their network and build professional connections when they are working to start their careers in this country. If you are an employer looking to hire international students in your organisation you need to bear in mind your responsibilities. You need to understand the implications in the area of immigration also. Let us look at the different things you need to bear in mind as an employer of international students under the OPT program.

Overview of the OPT program

International students who are neither citizens nor permanent residents in the United States, hold either F1 or J1 visas, and the majority of them hold the F1 visa, due to which we will look at the matter from the method of hiring F1 students. Here employers and candidates both need to bear in mind that a Social Security Number is not enough to get a work permit. Hence they should ensure that the candidate has completed the I-1 procedure before they hire OPT students.


How to hire F1 students for internships

Curricular practical training

This program allows the OPT students in USA to accept practical training after completing one year of full time studies in their chosen field. Internships are the most common type of employment that CPT students get. The work under this program can be full-time or part-time depending on the policies of the educational institute. Sometimes, students studying for graduate degrees don’t need to complete one full year of studies before participating in an internship.

Duration – Usually there is no limit but one year of full time CPT does not allow the participants to opt for the OPT program which is another program meant for F1 students to work in this country. However, students who work part-time under the CPT program can opt for OPT employment.

Role in employment – If a student wants to opt for CPT then they are solely responsible for applying for the same and the employers have no role to play in this process. The employer simply has to issue an appointment letter confirming the internship.

Role of the students – Once the students are offered an internship they should submit an online application to their educational institute, with information regarding the start and end dates of the internship and the name and complete address of the employers. The student also needs to provide the title that they will be working under and description of the job. The international students services office facilitates this process. According to the immigration rules of the USA, students participating part-time in the employment, should still be full time students in the educational organisation except during the official vacation periods.

Cost and time taken – The employers do not have to bear any costs and usually the time of processing and approval takes around 5 – 10 working days.

How to hire F1 students for full time work

Post and pre-completion OPT – The optional practical training or OPT program can be applied for by opt students in usa either after completing one year of studies or after attaining the graduation degree in a chosen subject. This program allows the students to gain experience in their subject they are majoring in. the duration of this program is for one year of practical training. But if they have worked under OPT during their second year of study then the time period will be deducted from the stipulated 12 months.

Role of employer – The process of applying for OPT is completely the students’ responsibility and the company hiring OPT students, simply has to issue an appointment letter to the students. The students can get an OPT status even if they don’t have an employment in hand.

Role of students – In the two step process of obtaining OPT work permit, the students have to first submit a request for the same, this request is processed and approved by the international students’ advisor who is normally present in the educational institute. In the second step the student has to submit the completed application for OPT with the supporting documents and the fees required to the USCIS so that the OPT work authorisation can be granted to them. Once the application is approved the student will receive EAD or employment authorisation document which is a proof for work authorisation for a period of one year.

Cost and time required –The students have to pay a stipulated fee, but there is no cost to the employers. The USCIS usually takes an average of 60 days to process the application, but during the peak OPT season starting in February, the time take can extend up to 3-4 months. This is why the students are advised to apply at least 90 days before completing their graduation and they should have an EAD card in order to begin employment.

How to hire STEM graduates

Post-completion Optional Practical training is a program that allows foreign students graduating from an accredited university or college to work in the United States.

Duration – Two years for STEM graduates.

Role of employer

  • The employers who hire OPT students should be enrolled in and be in the good books of E-Verify.
  • They should prepare and apply a formal training program which supports the academic pursuit of the students with the help of practical experience. The training program is approved by the student and submitted to the international student services office for approval. The office is also provided the report of the students’ progress after one and two years of the students’ temporary employment.
  • Provide a report of termination to the international students’ services office within 5 working days.
  • The government also sends their own agent for an on site visit to ensure the proper working of the program.
  • The company should provide an opportunity similar to US citizens to the international students and should attest that they have enough resources to properly train the students. The student should not replace a fulltime or part time US worker and help the student to achieve their training objective.

Role of the student

As part of their STEM OPT request, the student submits the completed I-983 training plan to the international student services office, which then processes the STEM OPT recommendation. The F-1 student submits the completed OPT application, supporting paperwork, and appropriate money to USCIS. Once authorized, USCIS issues an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card as proof of work authorization for 24 months.

Cost and processing time

There is no charge to the company hiring OPT students. The international student services office will process the student’s STEM OPT recommendation within a few working days. USCIS processing time for STEM OPT ranges from 3 to 4 months on average, with some instances reaching 5 to 6 months. The STEM OPT Extension must be filed before the initial OPT period ends. If students submit their STEM OPT extension petitions on time and their OPT period expires while the extension application is underway, their work permission is automatically extended for 180 days.

More information

Employers who want to hire OPT students under the J-1 status, do not have to pay any fees or take any action. The J-1 student merely obtains authorization from his or her program sponsor to work for up to 18 months. PhD students can work for a maximum of 36 months. It is the student’s exclusive duty to finish the application procedure with the program sponsor, and approval is often granted within 5-10 business days. The work must be directly related to the academic degree program and approved by the academic institution’s J-1 responsible officer.

TN1 status – This is meant for Canadian or Mexican citizens who can work in the areas enlisted in the TN employment list. This status has a validity of 3 years after which the employee should apply for an extension through their employer. This is a variation of the program for F1 students specially meant for Canadian and Mexican students.


As you know as an employer that there are many benefits of hiring international students. This is the reason that many employers opt for these OPT and CPT students in their organisation. There are many career portals like OPTnation which the employers looking for these international students can refer. These portals publish curated resumes of the CPT and OPT candidates which in turn help the employers to choose the candidates they want to interview. The candidates and employers both can be certain to find a good cultural fit for themselves. This is apart from the salary and other compensation that the candidates receive on becoming employees and also the skills and talents that the employers require from the candidates.

The government also prefers to provide a H1 B visa to the students who have earlier worked in the capacity of an OPT candidate, once their tenure under the program is completed. As you know it is becoming difficult to hire foreign nationals under the F1 visa for the employers. Hence the OPT and CPT programs are an excellent choice for them to attain their required employees and employment.