Hiring International Students
International students studying in the U.S. usually hold either an F-1 or a J-1 student visa. Under certain circumstances, the Government allows an international student in either F-1 or J-1 status to request work permission beyond the graduation date in order to gain practical work experience related to their field of study in the United States.
For F-1 students the work permission is called Optional Practical Training (OPT) and for J-1 students it is called Academic Training. Harvard appointments for individuals eligible for OPT or Academic Training should be handled carefully. It is not always possible to obtain a change of visa status for J-1 students in order to allow them to continue their appointment beyond the expiration date of the Academic Training because of the two-year home country residence requirement and 12-month bar. Individuals who come to Harvard to work in administrative or staff positions will not usually be eligible for Harvard-sponsored visas at the end of their OPT or Academic Training. They will be limited to working only until the end of their OPT or Academic Training.
Administrators should complete ISD records for students from other universities who are given academic appointments at Harvard. For questions about an appointment for someone completing an academic degree at a U.S. institution, please be sure to consult an advisor in the HIO.
Hiring Current Harvard University Students
Hiring departments do not need to inform the HIO when hiring an enrolled Harvard University student, but should make sure the student has applied for a U.S. Social Security Number, if they do not already have one.
F-1 students may work on campus for up to 20 hours a week when school is in session and full-time during official school breaks without permission from the HIO.
J-1 students whose visas are sponsored by Harvard may work on campus up to 20 hours a week when school is in session and full-time during official school breaks without permission from the HIO. J-1 students who are sponsored by another organization such as Fulbright must first obtain permission from their sponsor before accepting on-campus employment.
Important note: The F-1 and J-1 on-campus employment benefits end the day students graduate or complete their academic programs at Harvard, which means their work authorization will not continue. If you wish to continue hiring the same students, you must be sure that they have applied and been approved for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) or J-1 Academic Training. Contact your HIO advisor with any questions.
Hiring International Students from Other U.S. Universities
- Enrolled F-1 students from other U.S. institutions may only work at Harvard University if they have authorization from their school for either Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or have obtained Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT from USCIS. For CPT, the work authorization should be on page 2 of their I-20 with Harvard University as the employer. For OPT or STEM OPT, they should present you with the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.
- Enrolled J-1 students from other U.S. institutions may only work at Harvard University only if they have authorization from their J-1 program sponsor in the form Academic Training (AT). For AT, you should see Harvard as the employer on their Form DS-2019 along with a letter authorizing the students to work.
- Students may have other forms of employment authorization which usually are in the form of an EAD. You may hire these students to work for you within the validity dates listed on their EAD.
- Administrators should complete ISD records for students from other universities who are given academic appointments at Harvard.
Hiring F-1 Students on STEM OPT
Students on F-1 visas who have earned eligible U.S. degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) may apply for a 24 month extension of their Post-Completion OPT.
- There are several requirements that must be followed by employers, students and Designated School Officials (DSO). There is a required training plan form (I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students) that must be completed by employers.
- STEM OPT employment must be paid; and self-employment is not allowed.
- Students will qualify for up to two STEM OPT extensions if they earn multiple STEM degrees in the U.S. and may be eligible for a STEM extension based on a previously earned STEM degree.
For more and the most up-to-date information on STEM OPT, please refer to the Study in the States website.
Responsibilities and Obligations
There are numerous employer requirements to which you must adhere. Some of those requirements are enumerated here, but you should pay particular attention to the attestation on page 2 of the I-983 and the employer information located here. General employer requirements include being registered with the E-Verfiy program and ensuring that hiring an international student with STEM employment will not displace a U.S. worker.
- Rules apply for all STEM OPT students working at Harvard regardless of appointment title
- Must be E-Verify employer; Harvard is an E-Verify employer.
- Develop a training plan for the student
- Complete Form I-983
- Provide two evaluations for the student
- Responsible for proving compliance during government site visits
- Have a job offer related to your U.S. STEM degree
- Work for an E-Verify employer
- Have a paid position in STEM field for at least 20 hours per week
- Work with your international student advisor to complete a STEM OPT application and submit the application to USCIS
- Complete student part of Form I-983
- Submit the completed Form I-983 to the school that issued the Form I-20 (for Harvard students, submit the completed Form I-983 to the HIO)
- Responsible for completing validation reports every six months via their school; Harvard students via the HIO
- Completing parts of evaluation
- Review STEM OPT application
- Issue STEM OPT Form I-20
- Maintain the completed Form I-983 in student’s file
About Form I-983
The new STEM OPT rule that provides the 24-month STEM OPT regulations increases the educational benefits that F-1 students receive from their practical training experiences by requiring the submission of a formal training plan, using Form I-983.
The formal training plan, Form I-983, must clearly articulate the STEM OPT student’s learning objectives and affirm the employer’s commitment to helping the student achieve those objectives. To fulfill this requirement, a student and their employer must complete and sign Form I-983 and submit it to the student’s international student advisor. By signing Form I-983, students and their employers agree that they understand their obligations during the STEM employment.
STEM OPT students and their employers are subject to the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, effective as of the employment start date requested for the associated STEM OPT period, as indicated on Form I-983.
STEM OPT students may participate in entrepreneurial ventures where the student is an employee. However, they may not act as their own employer or as the signatory for the employer for the purposes of the form.
Instructions for Completing Form I-983
You can find instructions to complete the Form I-983 here.