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Guide to Hiring International Students


Whitman College is excited to support employers interested in hiring international students who hold a F-1 visa. Many F-1 visa students will aim to use Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) during their time at Whitman or as a recent graduate. The following information is to better explain these two programs and how they connect to the hiring process for Whitman students. Please note that visa sponsorship is not required for hiring CPT and OPT applicants. 

What is CPT?

Curricular Practical Training, often called CPT, is a work permission granted to F-1 visa students to use while enrolled at an American institution of higher education. Using CPT, a student may work off campus for an organization in the capacity as an employee or intern. The position worked must be directly connected to their field of study. For example, a F-1 visa student who is majoring in history must work in a position that directly correlates to that field such as a museum intern or historical tour guide. There is no time limitation on part-time work. However, if a F-1 visa student works over 365 days full time it will result in loss of OPT (see below). Most students use CPT for internships, summer jobs, or other short term work that is mandated by their academic program or a course.

What is required of employers for CPT?

Whitman College and the students are responsible for applying for CPT. Whitman College’s International Office will process the work authorization if CPT conditions are met. Employers must provide a letter of employment for the process. To see an example of this letter, please see below. Do keep in mind that there is a processing time which can range from two weeks to a month, so early recruitment and hiring is key for ensuring students can start in a timely manner.

More information about CPT can be found on the US  Immigration Customs and Enforcement website

What is OPT?

Optional Practical Training, often called OPT, is a work permission granted to F-1 visa students so they may work before or (more commonly) after completing their academic program (graduating). Using OPT, international students may remain in the United States for up to one year. As with CPT, jobs or internships must be directly related to their area of study and the position must be at least 20 hours a week. Keep in mind that there is a processing time which may be longer than CPT approval, so early recruitment and hiring is key for ensuring workers can start in a timely manner. 

STEM OPT: If students majored in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM), their OPT may be extended an additional 24 months (2 years) allowing them to remain in the United States for a total of three years. If you are extending OPT under the STEM extension, your organization must have an account on e-verify, a government website where you confirm the employment of the visa holder.

What is required of employers for OPT?

The school and students are responsible for immigration paperwork, applying for OPT, and working with the federal government to approve OPT. The work required for employers is the hiring process and extension of offer to the student. For OPT and STEM extension, employers must also submit a letter of employment. Additionally, processing a STEM Extension requires a completed I-983 form. Please note that F-1 visa holders must not begin work without authorization, otherwise there could be severe immigration consequences for the visa holder. 

More information about OPT can be found on the US Immigration Customs and Enforcement website

To see an example of an employment letter please click here

FAQ and Additional Resources

The answer depends on the worker. If the worker is from a country the United States has a tax treaty with, they may not be required to pay US federal taxes. However, if there is not a treaty, F-1 visa workers will be required to pay state and federal income taxes. Please check with your organization’s financial or human resources department for further information. 

From a recruitment standpoint, think about the resources and support you have in place to support visa holders. Do you have adequate time off so people may travel home? Does your workplace recognize time off for non-Christian/Western holidays? Is your leadership diverse and have they worked on policies to ensure equity? All of these things and more will help you stand out to diverse candidates, especially those who reside in the USA as visa holders.

In most cases, you will have to begin the process of visa sponsorship to keep an employee post-OPT. 

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