Hiring International Students

Using Work Authorization to Recruit

The Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. § 1324b(a)(1)(B) prohibits the use of citizenship status requirements in recruiting. The use of a work authorization screening requirement in job postings is not permissible unless U.S. citizenship is required by law, regulation, executive order, or government contract. Review the U.S. Department of Justice's "Best Practices for Online Job Postings.

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Office of International Programs and Services

University Career Services

Hiring an international student offers many benefits:

  • International students are often bilingual or multilingual
  • International students have demonstrated self-motivation and independence by studying away from home
  • International students are flexible and adaptable as they adjust to new cultures

Hiring international students for internships and jobs is no more extensive than hiring a domestic student. No additional costs are involved, and employers do not need to complete any additional paperwork to be able to legally make a job offer.

International students bring a unique global perspective to complex issues, making them ideal assets to employers. They are adaptable, ready to take on challenges, are often multilingual, and possess multicultural skills that will help them excel in diverse workplaces.

What is the basic process for hiring an international student?

International students can work on campus when they begin their program in F or J status and can explore internship opportunities off campus after one academic year (fall and spring) as a full-time student in that visa status. (Students must meet a required GPA and be in a degree program) 

Curricular Practical Training
Students on an F-1 visa who have completed at least one full academic year at their institution qualify for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT employment is a paid internship that is directly related to the student's major field of study and provides training that will allow the student to apply concepts learned in their degree program in a practical setting. (GPA and degree program requirement)

Optional Practical Training
Students on an F-1 visa who have completed at least one full academic year at their institution also qualify for Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT employment is a job that provides relevant work experience in the student's major field of study and reinforces what they may have learned in their degree program. (GPA and degree program requirement)

Find out more. 

How many hours can a student intern/work?

Students must be registered for a full course load (except during their last semester) and can work up to 20 hours per week during fall and spring semesters. Students can work full time during the summer. 

Work Authorization Deadlines
Students must obtain a work authorization through the Office of International Programs and Services. Work authorizations are only provided per academic term, and deadlines are applicable. Deadlines are generally aligned with add/drop course dates for fall and spring terms. Deadlines for summer work authorizations occur in mid-June.

Curricular Practical Training
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) work authorizations must be associated with academic programs on campus such as internship courses or the Cooperative Education (Co-op) Program.

Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorizations are possible after the student completes their program of study as well. The standard OPT period is a cumulative maximum of 12 months. Some STEM -focused OPT positions can be extended to a total of 17 months

How much paperwork / cost / time is required?

Mason students on F-1 Status apply for their own Employment Authorization Documents and pay their own fees. Mason graduates on J-1 Status are granted Academic Training to work for your company by the J Program Responsible Office or Alternate Responsible Officer at their school using your job offer letter. 

Curricular Practical Training
If you are hiring student interns, you must complete your portion of the paperwork necessary for the student to obtain the needed work authorization from the Office of International Programs and Services. Employers are also asked to provide a mentor or supervisor, to provide work which is relevant to the student's major, and to participate in an evaluation of the student.

There is no extra cost to hire a Curricular Practical Training (CPT) candidate for an internship. Approval for a student's CPT internship can take up to 2-3 weeks from the date of paperwork submittal. Employers are required to complete an offer letter to the student as well as the employer sections on the CPT application form and the Co-op Work Agreement.

Optional Practical Training
There is no additional cost involved to hire an Optional Practical Training (OPT) candidate for employment. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing time for OPT takes 30 to 90 days so students are encouraged to apply early.

Do international students need a Social Security Number?

Students working in an internship off campus should wait for their Social Security Number to be received in order to complete the I-9 employment paperwork before beginning work.  On-campus employment (paid by GMU) is the only type of work students can begin without the Social Security Number in hand.  In addition, they must have applied for the Social Security Number and have a receipt from the Social Security Office to complete the I-9 in the GMU HR process.

In some cases, international students working on campus or in an internship with an off campus employer will use their immigration form, passport, and I-94 to complete the I-9 with the employer. Mason's Office of International Programs and Services will grant work permission for internships. 

Do I have to prove that no U.S. citizen was qualified?

Employers DO NOT need to certify that employment of the student prevented a qualified U.S. citizen from obtaining a position for Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training, and H-1B positions. This is only a requirement when sponsoring for a green card.

If I hire an international student on Optional Practical Training, will I have to let them go after the 12 months are over?

Students who are STEM eligible can apply for an additional 24 months of OPT to work for your company if you are an E-Verify employer. This gives them a total of 36 months to work for you under OPT. You can apply for an H-1B Temporary Work Visa for your employee every Apr 1 (Cap Subject) to begin Oct 1.

Where do I find information on applying for a work visa for my employee?

Mason's Office of International Programs and Services (OIPS) hosts immigration attorneys four to six times per year to go over the work visa and green card options - all are invited! Check oips.gmu.edu for scheduled employment workshops.