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Guide to Hiring International Students


Whitman College is excited to support employers interested in hiring international students who hold F-1 visas. 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 provided to summarize these two programs and how each connects 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 of an employee or intern. The position worked must be directly connected to the student's field of study. For example, an F-1 visa student who is majoring in history may intern at a museum or work as a historical tour guide. There is no time limitation on part-time work. However, if an F-1 visa student works full-time for more than 365 days, 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 they are taking.

What is required of employers for CPT?

Whitman College students are responsible for applying for CPT. Whitman's Office of International Student and Scholar Services will process the work authorization if CPT conditions are met. Employers must provide a letter of employment for the process (find an example letter template here). Please keep in mind that processing time for CPT applications can range from two weeks to a month, and as such, early recruitment and hiring is key to ensuring that students will be able to start their work in a timely manner.

More information about CPT can be found on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website

What is OPT?

Optional Practical Training, often called OPT, is a work permission granted to F-1 visa students to allow them to work in the U.S. before or (more commonly) after completing their academic program (i.e., graduating). Using OPT, international students may remain in the United States for up to one year. As is the case with CPT, jobs or internships must be directly related to the student's area of study, and the position must consist of at least 20 working hours per week. Please keep in mind that processing time for OPT applications may be longer than that for CPT applications, so early recruitment and hiring is crucial in order to ensure that workers can start in a timely manner. 

STEM OPT: If students majored in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM), their OPT may be extended for an additional 24 months (2 years), allowing them to remain in the United States for a total of three years. If you are utilizing OPT under the STEM extension, your organization must have an account on the U.S. Government's E-Verify site, where you will confirm the employment of the visa holder.

What is required of employers for OPT?

Whitman College and the students themselves are responsible for immigration paperwork, applying for OPT, and working with the federal government to approve OPT.  Employers are responsible for the hiring process and for extension of an offer to the student. For both standard OPT and STEM extension of OPT, employers must provide a letter of employment (find an example letter template here). Additionally, processing a STEM extension requires a completed Form I-983, which is to be completed in part by both the student and the employer. Please note that F-1 visa holders must not begin work without authorization; if they do so, there could be severe immigration consequences for the visa holder. 

More information about OPT can be found on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.

Additional Resources:

U.S. Homeland Security Study in the States site

Whitman College International Student & Scholar Services 

Strategies for Immigrant Inclusion in the Workplace on FuturamoBlog

Frequently Asked Questions

The answer depends on the worker. If the worker is from a country with which the United States has a tax treaty, they may not be required to pay U.S. federal taxes. If the U.S. does not have a tax treaty with the worker's home country, the F-1 visa worker 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 for visa holders. Do you provide adequate time off so your employees may travel home? Does your workplace recognize time off for non-Christian/Western holidays? Is your leadership diverse, and has your organization developed policies to ensure equity? All of these things and more will help you stand out to international candidates, especially those who reside in the U.S. as visa holders.

In most cases, you will have to begin the process of visa sponsorship to keep an employee after their time on OPT has finished.

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