Cornell University enrolls over 5,500 international students who hold temporary, "non-immigrant" visa status in the US. Their Cornell education combined with multicultural and multilingual skills make these students an excellent asset to any US employer. This brochure is designed to clarify the employment eligibility of international students in general terms, and to encourage you as a prospective employer to consider these talented graduates in your human resource development plan.
The majority of international students studying in the US hold F1 student visa status. A few hold J1 student visa status. In both cases, the regulations allow these students to apply for work authorization during their studies AND after graduation. Just as the name implies, this "practical training" period is meant to give students real world experience in their major field of study.
Little Paperwork for Employers
Long-Term Employment: Changing to a Different Visa Status
After practical training, most students may continue to work if the employer sponsors the student's application for another visa type—usually the H1B, or the TN for Canadians and Mexicans.
The TN visa allows Canadians and Mexicans to work in the US for three years at a time renewable indefinitely in certain occupations.
An employer can apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for an H1B visa for an employee. The H1B visa may be used for up to six years. There are forms that must be filed with the state and federal labor departments for the H1B, but the employer does NOT have to prove that there are no US workers available. The employer only has to demonstrate that the international is qualified for the job and will be paid the "prevailing wage" for that job. The H1B can take from 2 weeks to 5 months to be approved. More information is available on the website of the Miller Mayer law firm.
Attention is often drawn to these options (student and temporary worker visas) because they are satisfactory alternatives to the green card or permanent resident status and involve much less time, expense, and paperwork than the green card process.
Many international students seeking opportunities for post-graduate career employment in the US fully intend to return to their home countries after spending a few years establishing themselves professionally. These internationals and the companies they work for are well served by the non-immigrant employment options discussed here. In these cases, efforts to secure U.S. permanent residence are not at all necessary.
All employees, including international students, must complete the I-9 "Employment Eligibility Verification" form. The I-9 requires the employer to verify the identity and work authorization of every person hired. The I-9 form is available in a paper form, on the USCIS website but there is also an electronic verification process called "e-verify" which is becoming increasingly required by the US federal government. More information on E-Verify is available here.