Updated: Jan 13
For many decades, the United States has served as an attractive destination for international students seeking to pursue higher education. And it isn't difficult to see why: the country boasts unique degree programs, flexible support networks, and limitless pathways to employment and professional development.
According to data gathered from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the 2019 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, international students contributed almost $45 billion to the country's economy in 2018 despite making up 5.5% of the total U.S. higher education population (IIE 2019).
Indeed, international students are important for the long-term sustainability of our country's economy, diversity, innovation, and equitable discourse. Yet many U.S. employers refrain from hiring international students for both part-time and full-time opportunities — primarily due to misinformation about the reality of working with these students.
First, let's clarify the basic terms covered in this article.
The term "international student" is actually quite broad, but this article specifically considers individuals who possess a student visa that allows them to study at a U.S. university and work in the United States during enrollment and/or after graduation from their degree program. While some students choose to study in the U.S. due to an explicit desire to pursue employment after graduation, other students may only wish to gain practical experience while enrolled in college through internships or on-campus employment (NACE 2020).
So, why are employers hesitant to hire international students?
The primary source of employers' stigma about working with international students is a lack of information about the logistics of hiring international students for internship, part-time, or full-time positions. To reduce some of this stigma, it's important to address some of the common misconceptions associated with working with international students. In this article, we'll cover five of these misconceptions*.
Debunking Common Misconceptions
Misconception #1: Isn't it illegal to hire international students because they don't possess a green card?
No. International students on F-1 and J-1 visas can work in jobs related to their major field of study.
Misconception #2: Wouldn't hiring an international student cost a lot of money and involve a lot of paperwork?
No. There's no additional cost to hire international students beyond what's required to select the best candidate for the job. A school's international student office will take care of all the paperwork associated with obtaining work authorization for F-1 and J-1 students.
Misconception #3: Don't international students need work authorization before I can hire them?
No. International students are required to have work authorization before they begin actual employment, but not before they are offered employment. F-1 students may be in the process of obtaining work authorization while interviewing, while J-1 students will in fact require a written job offer to apply for work authorization.
Misconception #4: Is it illegal to continue to employ international students after their work authorization expires?
With some planning ahead, employers can hire international students with a bachelor's degree for a total of six years under the H-1B visa category. The application process is relatively straightforward, and there are a few basic requirements that must be met.
Misconception #5: Doesn't an employer have to prove that international students are not taking jobs from qualified American citizens?
No. Employers don't have to provide such documentation if an international student is working under an F-1, J-1, or H-1B visa. Employers must provide such documentation only when they are looking to hire foreign citizens on a permanent basis and sponsor them for permanent resident status.
International students are certainly aware of the challenges and opportunities that come with studying in the United States. As a result, it goes a long way when employers make an effort to educate themselves and support these students.
* Please note that Intern Pursuit isn't a legal firm and the advice contained in this article is only meant to help reduce employer stigma at a high level.
Source: “What Employers Should Know About Hiring International Students" (Oregon State University, Office of International Services). Originally published in 2000 with a grant from NAFSA. Editors: Laurie Cox, Ball State University, Junko Pierry, Stanford University, Lay Tuan Tan, California State University Fullerton & Phil Hofer, University of La Verne.