International students bring many attributes that U.S. employers are seeking. They are often proficient in multiple languages, have participated in university leadership and multicultural teamwork development, and have real-world problem solving skills. International students bring multiple strengths to a global work environment that make them valuable assets to employers in the U.S. and abroad.
More than 1,000,000 international students are enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities with F and J student visas and many of them are eligible for practical training employment authorization that is related to their field of study. This website strives to assist employers who wish to hire international students by providing information about the employment options F and J visa students have both during and after study at a U.S. college or university. F and J visa students require work authorization in order to begin a position, but not before they are able to accept an offer. They may only work for the dates for which they have prior work authorization and after providing evidence of this authorization to the employer. If a student works outside these authorized dates, it is a violation of their immigration status and can result in the termination of their immigration status.
F Student Visa Holders
The majority of international students attending Georgia Tech are F-1 visa holders and are issued an immigration document called an I-20. The primary purpose of this visa category is to complete a program of study in the U.S. F-1 visa status allows U.S. employment under conditions established by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Off-campus work permission is generally available to students pursuing Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate level education. Any off-campus work authorization must be related to a student's field of study and authorized prior to the employment start date. F student visa holders are eligible for two types of off-campus employment: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). Neither CPT nor OPT require the prospective U.S. employer to complete or submit an employment-based visa petition to USCIS on behalf of the prospective employee. Employers are not required to pay work authorization processing fees, but like any new hire, F visa students must complete the form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification).
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Georgia Tech F visa students are eligible for CPT if Georgia Tech’s Center for Career Discovery and Development (C2D2) has approved their prospective employment as eligible for the co-op program. CPT must then be approved by and coordinated with GT’s Office of International Education (OIE) prior to each work term. CPT is granted per semester and a detailed employment offer letter is required before a student can obtain CPT employment authorization. For more information on the Undergraduate co-op program, please see C2D2's undergraduate employer page. For more information on the Graduate co-op program, please see C2D2's graduate employer page. After CPT has been granted by OIE, students will receive a new I-20 with the CPT designation listed on the third page. Before students begin employment, employers should verify that there are correct employment dates as well as the correct employer name and address.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
F visa students are eligible for twelve months of full-time OPT work authorization. Students may choose to use their OPT during their course of study (with some limitations on the number of hours per week) or after degree completion. Students do not need an employment offer letter to apply for OPT, but should apply for OPT early due to average processing times. Students must first apply for OPT through Georgia Tech's Office of International Education (OIE) to receive a new I-20 with an employment designation. OIE will then assist the student by providing resources to compile an application to submit to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). U.S. employers are not involved in the OPT authorization process. After a student receives an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) from USCIS, they are eligible to accept any employment that is related to their field of study. Before a student begins employment, employers should verify that the student has been issued an EAD and that the start date on the EAD has passed. Students who have earned certain STEM degrees (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) may be eligible for an additional 17 months of OPT work authorization (resulting in 29 months total). In order for students to apply for this additional OPT time, employers must be enrolled in USCIS's E-Verify program. Students must report any employment and/or address changes to Georgia Tech's OIE. Employers of students who are using their 17-month STEM OPT extension are required to notify OIE if the employment is discontinued. If the termination is prior to the end of the authorization period of OPT, the employer is required to report the change within 48 hours and should use the firstname.lastname@example.org email address to report this information.
J Student Visa Holders
The primary purpose of the J student visa is to participate in an educational and cultural exchange. Students in this visa status receive an immigration document called a DS-2019. This status allows U.S. employment under conditions established by the U.S. Department of State. Off-campus work permission is generally available to students pursuing Bachelor's, Master's and Doctorate level education in the form of Academic Training. Any off-campus work authorization must be related to a student's field of study. Academic Training does not require the prospective U.S. employer to complete or submit an employment-based visa petition to USCIS on behalf of the prospective employee. Employers are not required to pay work authorization processing fees, but like any new hire, J visa students must complete the form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification).
Employers who wish to hire a J student visa holder must provide a letter that includes the following details:
- Job title
- A brief description of the position
- Proposed employment start and end date: If the end date is unknown, the student will be granted the full length of Academic Training for which they are eligible
- Number of hours per week
- Location (physical address) of the training/employment
- Name and address of the training/employment supervisor
Academic Training is approved by Georgia Tech's Office of International Education (OIE). After Academic Training has been approved by OIE, students will receive a new DS-2019 with the employment designation listed on the first page. Before a student begins employment, employers should verify that their DS-2019 includes this designation with appropriate start and end dates as well as the correct employer name.
Employment Authorization After Expiration of the Student Visa Status
U.S. employers may wish to extend their offer of employment beyond the period of authorized practical training. One option is the H-1B temporary work visa that allows up to six years of employment sponsorship in the U.S. The process is not overly complicated, but does require careful planning and may require the involvement of a trained professional or immigration attorney. Employers are advised to begin any discussions about the possibility of an H-1B investigation well in advance of the work authorization end date. Planning ahead will give the employer an opportunity to prepare and submit authorization forms with the U.S. Department of Labor and USCIS in a timely manner. Please be aware that some J student visa holders are not eligible for consideration for an H-1B visa.
OIE does not advise or assist with the H-1B process, but can provide contact information for qualified immigration attorneys upon request.