For Employers: Hiring International Students

International Student Work Authorization At-a-Glance

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is used most often for internships (paid or unpaid)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) is most often used directly following a student's completion of their program for a period of 12 months
  • There is $0 cost to the employer for CPT or OPT.
  • International students must obtain U.S. work authorization prior to engaging in employment.

F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Processing Time At least 5 business days
Application Process Student applies to International Office
Documentation Form I-20 showing authorization
Employer Specific? Yes
Availability During Program of Study

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Processing Time 3-4 months on average
Application Process Student Applies to USCIS
Documentation Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
Employer Specific? No
Availability During or After Program of Study

Expanded Information

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) may be authorized by the institution (NOT by USCIS) for F‐1 students participating in curricular‐related employment such as an internship. CPT authorization is indicated on page 2 of the Form I‐20 and includes the name of the employer, specific employment dates, and internship location. Each institution has different policies related to curricular‐related employment. Most Babson students enrolled in programs longer than two semesters are eligible for CPT. Processing time for CPT is approximately one week. International students in F‐1 immigration status are eligible for both CPT (prior to finishing their studies) as well as 12 months of OPT. However, a student who accumulates 12 months or more of full-time CPT becomes ineligible for OPT.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) must be authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) based on a recommendation from the international student advisor at the school which issued the Form I‐20 to the student.  F-1 students are eligible for 12 months of OPT for each degree level. Evidence of OPT authorization is the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), issued by USCIS.  The average processing time for USCIS to issue the EAD is 3 months.  Students may not begin employment until they receive the EAD and the start date on the EAD has arrived. A job offer is not needed for the OPT application. While OPT is not job specific, students must report all employment during their OPT period.

  • PreCompletion OPT maybe utilized prior to completion of study and may be part‐time (no more than 20 hours/week) while school is in session; or full‐time (over 20 hours/week) during vacation when school is not in session. 
  • PostCompletion OPT is authorized for employment after completion of the course of study. The application process can begin within three months of a student's completion date.
  • The STEM OPT Extension provides an additional 24 months of OPT to students with a degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field.  The STEM Extension application process happens at the end of a student's post-completion OPT period. It is employer and job specific. Employers can review the DHS website which includes resources on employer involvement and why STEM OPT is good for small business. There are some Babson graduate students who may be eligible for the STEM OPT Extension based on their Babson degree as long as other eligibility requirements are met. Students may also qualify based on a previous STEM degree.
  • The CapGap OPT Extension is an automatic extension F-1 immigration status and employment authorization to bridge the gap between the end of OPT and start of H‐1B status.  Cap‐Gap OPT can be granted if an F-1 student is:
    • engaged in a period of authorized post‐completion OPT; and
    • the beneficiary of a timely‐filed H‐1B petition requesting a change of status and an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year.

The cap-gap extension of OPT is automatic for eligible students. A student does not file an application for the extension or receive a new EAD to cover the additional time. The only proof of continued employment authorization currently available to an affected student is an updated Form I-20 showing an extension of OPT, on page 3. This document serves as proof of continued employment authorization.

The automatic extension of OPT is terminated upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H‐1B petition.  Evidence of the Cap-Gap extension can be provided on an updated Form I-20 issued by the school upon request by the student.

International students in J-1 immigration status are eligible for up to 18 months of work authorization, called Academic Training (AT).  Academic Training may be utilized prior to completion of study and may be part‐time (no more than 20 hours/week) while school is in session, or full‐time (over 20 hours/week) after the completion of their program. J-1 students in a non-degree program are limited to a number of months of work authorization equal to or less than the number of months of academic study.  Academic Training is granted in the form of an updated Form DS-2019 and a letter issued by the international student advisor at the school.  A job offer is required before authorization can be provided. Students should consult with the international student advisor for application instructions.

Federal regulations require that employment terminates at the conclusion of the authorized period of practical/academic training. However, students in F‐1 status or students in J‐1 status (who are not subject to a two‐year home residency requirement), may continue to be employed if they receive approval for a change of immigration status, usually to H‐1B.

H-1B temporary worker status is a nonimmigrant immigration classification used to hire a foreign national professional for a temporary period of time.  H-1B status is initially granted for a maximum period of three years and can be extended to a total of six years.

Students must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in order to qualify for H‐1B status.  H-1B status is employer-specific:  it is valid only for employment with the company that petitioned for them and immediately ends on upon termination of employment.

An H-1B petition must be filed by an employer; the employee can not file on his/her own behalf.  Employers typically hire an immigration attorney to process the application.  

No. International students in F-1 and J-1 immigration status are permitted to be employed in jobs related to their major field of study with prior authorization from a Babson international student advisor and/or USCIS.


No. The student works with Babson College to obtain the appropriate work authorization for internships and/or employment after graduation. No extra paperwork other than an employment offer letter is needed to hire international students for the periods they are allowed to work in F-1/J-1 student status.  If employers choose, they may file for the H-1B visa to allow the student to continue working after the student status-related work authorization has expired. Working with an immigration attorney is needed for the H-1B process.


F‐1 students are eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) before completing their studies, as well as an additional 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT), either before or following graduation, or a combination of the two.  J‐1 students are generally eligible for up to 18 months of Academic Training work authorization; this may be utilized either before or following graduation, or a combination of the two. 

No. International students must have work authorization before they begin employment, but not before they are offered employment. In fact, J‐1 students and F-1 students seeking Curricular Practical Training (CPT) must have a written job offer in order to apply for work authorization.  F‐1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) may already be in the process of obtaining work authorization while they are interviewing for employment. In this case, the student should be able to provide a reasonable estimate of when they expect to receive work authorization.

Social Security numbers are tax identification numbers and only after obtaining work authorization is an international student able to apply for the SSN.

Employers are not required to prove this if the individual is employed in F-1, J-1, or H-1B immigration status. Only when the employer is sponsoring an individual for permanent residency (“green card”) do they have to prove that a qualified U.S. citizen was not turned down for that job.

Students in F-1/J-1 immigration status may volunteer for traditional unpaid activities, such as helping at a homeless shelter or a Habitat for Humanity building project.  However, if the internship involves any form of compensation (stipend, salary, meals, housing, etc.), or if the internship involves work for which someone else would normally be paid, the student must obtain the appropriate practical/academic training work authorization prior to starting the internship. Students should check with their employers to ensure that the company is allowed by law to offer unpaid internships.