Graduate Studies

Hiring WIU International Students

Hiring international students to work in the U.S. is not as difficult as many employers think.  WIU international students are in the U.S. on non‐immigrant student visas (F‐1 and J‐1), and are eligible to accept employment under certain conditions.

Why Hire WIU international students?

Our international students have taken a bold step to study outside of the comfort of their home country and culture. Their experience challenges them to expand upon their worldview, engage in intercultural experiences, and adapt to a new environment. International students bring with them a wealth of transferable skills, including multilingual, self-motivation, adaptability, communication, organization, and initiative.  

Practical Training for F‐1 Students

Practical training is a legal means by which F‐1 students can obtain employment in areas related to their academic field of study. There are two types of practical training: Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT is authorized by WIU for F‐1 students participating in off-campus curricular‐related employment such as cooperative education, work study, practicum and internship programs.  F-1 visa holders are eligible for CPT before finishing their studies.

  • Authorized by the Immigration Specialist
  • Listed on page 2 of the I‐20; includes the name of the company, location and employment dates
  • Processing time for authorization of CPT varies
  • Related to the student's major
  • No cost to the employer/does not require sponsorship

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  F-1 students are eligible for 12 months of OPT at each higher degree level and those who obtain an approved degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) may be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT.

Pre‐Completion OPT can be done prior to completion of study, but is not as common. Students can request to work

    • Part‐time, a maximum of 20 hours per week, while school is in session
    • Full‐time during vacation when school is not in session
    • Related to the student's major
    • No cost to the employer/does not require sponsorship

Post‐Completion OPT is authorization for full time employment that is completed after the course of study.

    • Authorization is usually for one year
    • Related to the student's major
    • No cost to the employer/does not require sponsorship

STEM Optional Practical Training Extension (STEM OPT EXT) 

STEM OPT Extension can be authorized for an additional 24 months if the student is eligible.

  • Student must be currently on post‐completion OPT after completing a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in an approved Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field, and
  • Student must have a job or job offer from an employer registered in the USCIS E‐Verify Program.
  • Employment must be paid
  • No cost to the employer/does not require sponsorship
  • Students who have a pending STEM OPT Extension application can continue working for up to 180 days while the application is pending.

Academic Training for J‐1 Students 

International students on J‐1 visas are eligible for up to 18 months of work authorization, called academic training. 

  • Academic training is granted in the form of a letter by the Immigration Specialist at WIU.
  • Related to the student's major
  • No cost to the employer/does not require sponsorship
Minimal Paperwork for the Employer

There is little paperwork for an employer who hires an F‐1 or J‐1 student. All paperwork is handled by the students, the school, and USCIS .  Students must have the appropriate documents prior to beginning employment.


  • Students will have CPT authorization listed on page 2 of their I-20.


  • Students will have OPT approval listed on page 2 of their I-20. 
  • Students approved for OPT will receive an Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) by USCIS. Their name, photo and valid dates of employment are printed on the EAD. Students may begin employment only after they receive the EAD.

STEM OPT Extension

  • Students will have STEM OPT EXT approval listed on page 2 of their I-20. 
  • Students approved for STEM OPT EXT will receive a new STEM OPT EXT Employment Authorization Documents (EAD).  

Academic Training

  • Students will have authorization listed in section 5 of their DS-2019.


Continuing Employment after the Practical/Academic Training Period

H1-B visas

  • Students must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in order to qualify for H‐1B status.
  • Individuals may work in the U.S. for a maximum of six years under an H‐1B visa. This visa is valid only for employment with the company that petitioned for them.


Tax Information

Unless exempted by a tax treaty, F‐1 and J‐1 students earning income during practical training are subject to applicable federal, state, and local income taxes. Information on tax treaties may be found in Internal Revenue Services Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, and 901, U.S. Tax Treaties.

F‐1 and J‐1 students are usually exempted from Social Security and Medicare tax requirements. However, if F‐1 and J‐1 students are considered "resident aliens" for income tax purpose, social security and Medicare taxes should be withheld. Chapter 1 of Internal Revenue Services Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens explains how to determine the residency status of international students.


Frequently Asked Questions

Isn't it illegal to hire international students because they do not have a green card?

No. Federal regulations permit the employment of international students on F‐1 and J‐1 visas within certain limits. These visas allow students to work in jobs related to their major field of study. 

Even if it's legal to hire international students, won't it cost a lot of money and involve a lot of paperwork?

No. The only cost to the employer hiring international students is the time and effort to interview and select the best candidate for the job. 

How long can international students work in the United States with their student visa?

F‐1 students are eligible for CPT before completing their studies, as well as an additional 12 months of OPT, either before or following graduation, or a combination of the two.

Students who complete bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree in STEM field may work for 24 additional months of OPT at an E‐Verify employer. 

Students with a J‐1 visa are usually eligible to work up to 18 months following graduation. They may also be eligible to work part‐time during their program of study. 

Don't international students need work authorization before I can hire them?

No. International students must have the work authorization before they begin actual employment, but not before they are offered employment. J‐1 students must have a written job offer in order to apply for the work authorization. Many F‐1 students will be in the process of obtaining work authorization while they are interviewing for employment. Students can give employers a reasonable estimate of when they expect to receive work authorization.

What does the work authorization look like?

For OPT, F‐1 students receive from USCIS an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), a small photo identity card that indicates the dates for which they are permitted to work. For CPT, F‐1 students receive authorization from the school on the back of the student's I‐20. J‐1 students receive work authorization in the form of a letter issued by the Immigration Specialist at WIU.

What if I want to continue to employ international students after their work authorization expires?

With a bit of planning ahead, an employer can hire international students to continue to work for them in the H‐1B visa category for a total of six years (authorization is granted in two three‐year periods). The H‐1B is a temporary working visa for workers in a "specialty occupation." The job must meet two basic requirements:

    • The salary must meet the prevailing wage as defined by the Department of Labor
    • A bachelor's degree is a minimum normal requirement for the position.

Can I hire international students as volunteer interns?

Normally, if the internship involves no form of compensation and is truly voluntary, the students may volunteer without having to do any paperwork with the USCIS. If, however, the internship provides a stipend or any compensation, students must obtain permission for practical training or academic training prior to starting their internship. Students should check with their employers to ensure that the company is allowed by law to offer unpaid internships.

What is the cost of E‐Verify program and how can I enroll in E‐Verify program?

There is no cost to register in E‐Verify program. Information on E‐Verify and the enrollment procedure can be found at the USCIS website at

Contact Information

Dana Sistko, Immigration Specialist

Graduate Studies, Sherman Hall 116
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455
(309) 298-1806

Center for Career Preparation and Employer Engagement

Memorial Hall Lower Level
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455

QC Complex C, 1st Floor
3200 River Drive
Moline, IL 61265
(309) 298-1838



ICON Employment Guide developed by the International Career Opportunities Network (ICON).   For more information on ICON, please contact

U.S. Employer’s Guide to Hiring UC Berkely International Students


The Code of Federal Regulations 

 SEVP Policy Guidance on OPT