Iowa State University attracts students worldwide who aspire to become 21st century business leaders in today’s globally-diverse, technology-driven business environment. We typically have 15 or more countries represented by our student body in our graduate programs and these foreign students possess a broad range of functional, industry,and cultural expertise. Their ISU education, combined with their cultural knowledge and language skills, make foreign students a special asset to U.S. employers.

Many of our international students seek to gain experience with a U.S. company either through an internship or full-time employment upon graduation. We encourage companies to consider hiring international students in positions for which they are fully qualified.

How the Process Works: Simple & Easy

Getting permission for international students to work in the U.S. is not as difficult as employers think:

International students need not be permanent U.S. residents (green card holders) in order to work here. It is perfectly legal to hire a foreign national as long as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS, formerly INS) has granted specific work authorization.


The majority of international students attending Iowa State possess an F-1 (foreign student) visa. With this Visa, students are automatically allowed to work as interns during summer months or any semester in the year in positions that relate to the student’s field of study. What is needed from you is only a letter outlining dates of employment, work location, and a brief description of the internship. Contrary to the popular myth, there is no requirement on your part to show that an international student did not take a job from a qualified American if that person is working under an F-1, J-1 or an H-1B visa.

Minimal paperwork is involved when hiring F-1 and J-1 students; the majority is handled by the student, the school and CIS.  A brief letter is required to verify employment.

Cost to employers is only the time and effort to interview and select the best candidate for the job. Unless F-1 and J-1 students are considered ‘resident aliens’ for income tax purposes, generally F-1 and J-1 students are exempt from social security taxes and Medicare reductions.

International students wishing to participate in internships can apply for work permission called Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Upon confirmation of an internship position, authorization is sought by the student from ISU’s designated school official (DSO) who is authorized by CIS to certify such work permission for qualified interns. Completing the CPT authorization process is quick, taking only a week.

Full-Time Positions – Short Term

Once authorized, students holding F-1 visas may be employed full-time for 12 months after graduation under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. Students on J-1 visas may generally work for a total of 18 months either before completing their degree or after graduation. CIS authorization for either type of work permission is based on the recommendation of the DSO at ISU. It is not necessary for students to have a job before applying and obtaining OPT work permission.

As with internships, there are no special procedures for the employer to follow or forms to complete to hire these students for full-time positions at graduation. All the employer is required to do is complete the I-9 form and provide a standard offer letter. ISU will handle all of the paperwork.

Long Term Employment

Employers who want to hire international students for long-term assignments can sponsor them on H-1B visas. An international student’s F-1 visa status can be changed to H during their OPT time. Once on H status, the student is permitted to work for the petitioning company for 3 years and may extend up to 3 more years – for a total of 6 years.

The H status application process is relatively easy and inexpensive. The employer petitions CIS on behalf of the employee, the beneficiary, in a three-step process:

  1. Prevailing wage information is sought by employer.
  2. Information is submitted by employer to the U.S. Department of Labor for approval.
  3. The H petition is prepared by employer and sent to CIS for approval.

The H status application process is best handled by an expert. If the hiring organization has in-house attorney who can handle the H application process, it can be done within the company. There are also numerous immigration attorneys that are reasonably priced and specialize in this process.

If you have questions about hiring international graduate business students, please contact Graduate Business Career Services. We’ll be happy to provide an answer or referral to the best source of information.