HR Management & Compliance, Recruiting

Can We Hire a Foreign Exchange Student as an Intern?

We are an accounting firm that frequently hires area college students to intern for short periods throughout the year. We recently received a few outstanding applications from foreign students attending the local college.  Can we hire foreign students as interns?

The short answer is that yes, foreign students are eligible for paid employment off campus, but subject to certain conditions. Thankfully, there is little paperwork for an employer that hires foreign students. All additional paperwork is handled by the student, the school and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Three possible visas for students who want to work

Three different types of visas allow non-U.S. citizens to study and work in the United States: the F-1 visa (Academic Student), the M-1 visa (Vocational Student) and the J-1 visa (Exchange Visitor).

F-1 visa students can work off-campus after one year of study in the United States

The F-1 visa allows someone to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school or other academic institution or in a language training program. He/she must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma or certificate. The school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.

F-1 students may not work off-campus during their first academic year, but may engage in a few types of off-campus employment after they have been studying for one academic year (and are still studying to maintain their F-1 visa).

M-1 visa students are eligible for only a short amount of OPT

The M-1 visa category includes students in vocational or other nonacademic programs, other than language training. Examples of these students include those in mechanical studies, cooking schools, language programs or cosmetology schools.

J-1 visa students must be sponsored by a private sector or government program

A J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States to exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange, especially to obtain medical or business training within the United States. All applicants must meet eligibility criteria and be sponsored either by a private sector or government program. Different categories exist within the J-1 program, each defining the purpose or type of exchange, including doctors, nannies, camp counselors and scholars (among others).

For a full discussion of these visas, and the answers to some frequently asked questions, click here.