U.S. Employment Regulations

UVA Career Center – July 8th, 2015

This information is designed to assist you, the international student, with the job search process. This guide is particularly targeted towards students in F-1 or J-1 visa status.  However, other foreign nationals or those with newly acquired American citizenship may find some of the information included to be both relevant and useful.  

In addition to this content, international students should also contact the International Studies Office (ISO) before seeking any form of employment (paid or unpaid) whether as a student or in preparation for graduation so that you are aware of all applicable restrictions, requirements and deadlines.  Remember it is your responsibility to connect with ISO to obtain the most current information as the rules are constantly changing.  

Employment While a Student

As an international student you may have the opportunity to gain experience on- and in some cases off-Grounds. Before you begin seeking employment, it is extremely important that you connect with the International Studies Office to ensure that you are aware of all applicable restrictions, requirements and deadlines.  If you are unsure if an opportunity you are pursuing constitutes as employment, visit the International Studies Office for more information.  


There are specific training programs that provide eligible international students with the opportunity to pursue experience both while they are a student and immediately upon completion of their degree. Some of the most common include: 

  • For Students with F-1 Visa Student Status: Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension
  • For Students with J-1 Visa Student and Scholar Status: Academic Training

It is important as you begin to pursue these that you plan ahead.  Some approvals to work can take anywhere from 30-120 days. Review Student Visa Statuses in preparation for your meeting with ISO.

Employment after Graduation

There are many types of visas that provide international students the opportunity to work in the U.S. after graduation.  Below are a few of the more common work visas pursued by international students and employers.

H-1B Visas/Non-Immigrant Temporary Work Visa

Some F-1 and J-1 visa holders may be eligible to change their status in the U.S. and acquire H-1B status.  In order to qualify for H-1B visa status, you must first have a job offer with an employer who is willing to file an H-1B petition on your behalf with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  H-1B visa status is reserved for individuals in "specialty occupations" which are jobs requiring at least a Bachelor’s degree.  

An attorney is usually hired by the employer, in order to file the H-1B petition on your behalf.  

Every fiscal year, the U.S. government allows approximately 65,000 new foreign nationals from around the world to gain H-1B status in the U.S.  This limit on new H-1B holders is known as the “H-1B cap”.  There are a separate 20,000 H-1B visas available for foreign nationals who earn at least a Master’s degree from a U.S. institution.  Some employers are exempt from the H-1B cap such as institutions of higher education and non-profit research organizations associated with those institutions.  New H-1B petitions may be filed as early as April 1 with requested start dates of the following October 1, which is the first day of the new fiscal year.  In recent years, the H-1B cap has been reached as quickly as possible, and about double the allotted number of petitions were filed.  For current information about the number of petitions received and deadlines visit www.uscis.gov.  

TN, H-1B1 and E-3 classifications

Citizens of Canada, Mexico, Singapore, Chile and Australia can often find opportunities in these classifications.  If you will work in a specific occupation and are Canadian or Mexican, you may qualify for TN status.  Citizens of Singapore and Chile are given an allotment of H-1B numbers that is separate from other foreign nationals and has never been exhausted.  Australians who qualify for H-1B status also qualify for E-3 status and this quota has also never been exhausted.

Permanent Residents (green card holders)

If you are a permanent resident you are eligible to work in the United States without restriction.  The application process to become a permanent resident is time-consuming and complicated.  If you believe you are eligible to apply for permanent residence, contact an immigration attorney for a consultation.