How to Hire an International Student

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This information is designed for you, the prospective employer, to clarify the legal obligations of both the employer and the international student. Hiring an international student is easier than you may expect.

The Office for International Education (OIE) at Portland Community College is available to assist you in this process. Should you have questions about the immigration regulations authorizing employment, the PCC staff will be glad to answer them.

Who is an international student?

PCC international students are citizens of over 60 different countries.

International students enter the United States using one of two student visas. Almost all students are classified as F-1 students at PCC. A small number are J-1 students. The primary distinction between the two classifications is that F-1 students usually have private sources of funding, whereas J-1 students often have governmental or international agency funding. Although the primary purpose of F-1 and J-1 student status is to study in the United States, both classifications allow for off-campus employment.

How can an international student work on campus?

F-1 students can work on campus without any special permission from the immigration as long as the work does not exceed 20 hours per week during the academic year and assuming the student has maintained F-1 status. Under certain special circumstances, graduate students can work at an off-campus location as on campus employment under what the USCIS has coined the extended campus concept. If an off-campus location is educationally affiliated with the school and the employment is an integral part of the student's educational program, this employment can be considered on campus work at an off-campus location.

Since on campus work does not require any special work authorization, students do not need an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), nor an authorization from an international student advisor. Students can be paid directly by the employer.

How can an international student work off campus?

The regulations allow for practical training for F-1 students. Practical training allows for paid employment in the student's field of study at an off-campus location. There are two major differences in how the work permission for each is obtained.

Practical Training

Practical training is a legal means by which F-1 students can obtain employment in areas related to their academic field of study. Students, in general, must have completed one academic year in F-1 status and must maintain their F-1 status in order to be eligible for practical training.

Practical training is divided into two categories:

  • Curricular practical training prior to completion of studies;
  • Optional practical training both before and after completion of studies.

Curricular Practical Training can be authorized by an international student advisor for F-1 students participating in cooperative education, internship programs, and other curricular-related employment. For curricular practical training, the student's employment authorization is on his/her SEVIS I-20 form specifying place of employment and duration of that employment. Curricular practical training does not require work authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Optional Practical Training can only be authorized by the USCIS based on a recommendation from the student's international student advisor. The term optional refers to students' options with regard to when they want to use all or part of the total of 12 months of practical training. Optional practical training can be authorized by USCIS:

  • during vacations when school is not in session
  • part time (max 20 hours per week) while school is in session
  • after completion of the course of study (excluding thesis)

Optional practical training may be granted for a maximum of 12 months calculated on a daily basis with part-time practical training at one-half the full-time rate.

Students who have been granted optional practical training will be issued an EAD by USCIS.

A student does not need you, the prospective employer, to complete any USCIS or other government form to apply for either practical training or academic training. Of course, for I-9 purposes any student who is hired as an employee must be able to document, within 72 hours of commencing employment, that s/he has been granted employment authorization.

Do I withhold tax from the international student employee?

Yes, international students do have taxes withheld from income earned in the United States, with some notable exceptions. F-1 students who have been in the U.S. less than five calendar years, are nonresidents for tax purposes. Most PCC international students will be classified as such. A nonresident student is exempt from FICA/FUTA (social security/unemployment) withholding, if enrolled in 6 or more credit courses each term they work. Employers should refer to Internal Revenue Service publications 515 and 519 for further information.

Further, approximately 45 countries have tax treaties with the United States. Students from a tax treaty country may have part of their income exempt from federal taxation. Students who claim this exemption, s/he must be able to prove eligibility under the tax treaty. Summaries of these treaties can be found in IRS Publication 901, which is available at the IRS website. (If a student wishes to claim a tax treaty exemption, s/he must file IRS Form 8233 upon completing the I-9, along with a requisite statement as outlined in Appendix A of IRS Publication 519.)

What happens after the student has used all his/her training?

You will likely find the PCC international student to be an asset to your team. Although it is not possible to extend the training beyond the maximum period allowed by law, many PCC students qualify for and routinely gain an H-1B employment classification. The H-1B is for professional employment and allows for work up to six years.

The H-1B is not a complicated procedure, but it does require the employer to plan ahead, so there is not a "gap" in the time the employee is allowed to work. The employer acts as the "sponsor" for the H-1B applicant and documents must be filed with both the Department of Labor and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It is wise to begin the H-1B process at least three months before the student's training period expires.

Please note: PCC cannot offer assistance in this area.

How can I recruit an international student?

PCC's Office of Career Services works with all students throughout the college. The easiest way to register job openings is through their website at http://www.pcc.edu/resources/careers/employer-services/how-to-post.html.