The US Department of State, in collaboration with the Institute of International Education, has reported a significant increase in the number of international students studying at US colleges and universities. Last year, the number of international students enrolled at US institutions of higher education exceeded 1,000,000, up more than 10% from the prior year. These international students come to the US from all over the world, but are primarily from China, India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. These students enroll in graduate and undergraduate programs in engineering, math and computer science, business and management, and physical science at local colleges to national universities in all fifty states.

Many of these international students desire to remain in the US after graduation and will seek domestic employment. As a human resource professional, you should be aware that these international students remain in temporary F-1 student status, and most are eligible for 12-month post-graduate employment authorization. To legally work in the US, these students must provide evidence of their legal status and employment authorization when completing the I9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form. Note that students who graduate with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree may be eligible to request an additional 17-month extension of their employment authorization. Effective May 10, 2016, this extension will be increased to 24-months. Regardless, continued employment of these international students after their authorization expires may require additional sponsorship, which usually requires an H1B nonimmigrant visa. The H1B visa is historically oversubscribed and difficult to obtain. For example, on April 7, 2016, the USCIS, the administrative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, announced that it received more than 250,000 petitions for only 85,000 H1B visas. Without continued sponsorship and resulting legal status, many of these international students most likely will have to depart the US upon the expiration of their employment authorization and underlying student status.

Please contact Garrett Steck should you have any questions about hiring or continuing to employ a recent international graduate.