Many employers have questions about the kind of work authorization that students or alumni need to work for their companies. The information below answers some of these common questions.
Who is Authorized to Work?
Individuals under the following categories are authorized to work in the United States:
- U.S. Citizens
- Permanent U.S. residents
- DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
- Canadian and Mexican citizens via TN nonimmigrant status
Limiting employment to U.S. citizens is only appropriate when citizenship is required by law, regulation, or government contract. The Immigration Reform and Control Act states:
[...] employers with four or more employees may not:
- Discriminate because of national origin against U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and authorized aliens. (Employers of 15 or more employees should note that the ban on national origin discrimination against any individual under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 continues to apply.)
- Discriminate because of citizenship status against U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and the following classes of aliens with work authorization: permanent residents, refugees, and asylees.
International students can obtain work authorization upon receiving an offer of employment for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or after graduation for Occupational Practical Training (OPT). Employer sponsorship is not required as part of the CPT and OPT processes. The work must be related to the student’s course of study. Students can participate in internships and co-ops (CPT) while in school, and alumni can work for an extended period of time (12 to 36 months) after graduation through OPT. There are a few restrictions, and employers will have to follow some simple steps in the hiring process. Thousands of international students are employed across the U.S. and bring their talent and cultural diversity to their employers. For more information about Practical Training, visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) government website.
H-1B Visa Status
Employer sponsorship is required to hire or maintain the employment of an international student for a longer period (up to six years) of time. This sponsorship can be initiated immediately after graduation or after an employee completes their OPT.
For more information, see the following external links:
- CPT and OPT Information from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)
- Students and Employment: Authorization Information (uscis.gov)
- Foreign Students: I-9 Information (uscis.gov)
Canadian and Mexican Citizens
Canadian citizens studying in the U.S. in the fields covered by the TN nonimmigrant classification do not need to go through the OPT or H-1B visa processes to be hired in the U.S., nor are they required to obtain a student visa; it is still recommended that the candidate apply for OPT, as the paperwork for the TN classification can take two to four months. This process is exempt from any lotteries and does not require sponsorship from employers.
Eligible fields for the TN nonimmigrant classification include accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers. The initia; period of stay on the TN status is up to three years, and can be extended if requested by the employee.
Mexican citizens are also eligible for TN status, but unlike Canadian citizens, are required to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. as a TN nonimmigrant.
More information on the TN nonimmigrant classification can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program for young adults brought to the U.S. as children without a residency visa. It allows for work authorization and deferred removal action for up to two years, and it can be renewed indefinitely under current law. As long as a student with DACA status holds an EAD work authorization card, they can be hired without restrictions. Details on this program can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.