Dear Sophie: Startup recruiting strategies for international students and recent grads?

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Here’s another version of “Dear Sophie,” an advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working in technology companies.

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“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people around the world to rise above boundaries and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you are in people ops, a founder or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to” answer your questions In my next column.”

Extra Crunch members get access to a weekly “Dear Sophie” column; Use promo code ALCORN to buy a one or two year membership at 50% off.


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dear sophie,

I work in talent acquisition for a rapidly scaling startup, and I am looking for an edge to onboard top engineers.

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I see a lot of great candidates who are about to graduate from American university and who refer programs like CPT, OPT and STEM OPT. How do we recruit and retain them?

– hard recruiter

dear hard,

Many startups overlook the pool of talented international students or those who have recently graduated from US colleges or universities or will soon graduate – many of whom want to be here to work – because companies feel intimidated by what they know. What they don’t know about is the US immigration process.

Early stage startups often assume that a job is being offered to an international student or recent graduate F-1 Student Visa Could be too complicated, or they worry whether they find it too hard to secure an H-1B for early-stage startups. I recently What you need to know about hiring students on OPT on my podcast. Fortunately, international students and graduates offer a rich talent pool full of highly motivated individuals, and managing their immigration is entirely possible.

The two main types of training programs available to most international students holding an F-1 visa to work in their field of study include:

  • Curriculum Practical Training (CPT), which is currently available at some colleges and universities for enrolled students. Not every university or degree program offers it.
  • optional practical training (OPT), which is available during coursework (pre-completion opt) or after graduation (post-completion opt) and in some cases may be extended through stem opt Expansion.

Unlike work visas, employers are not required to “petition” F-1 students directly for CPT and OPT (for example, Form I-129, which is used for H-1B and O-1A , is not included). However, CPT and OPT require the student to work in a field directly related to their field of study, and the employer may require the student to provide information or other documents such as a training plan to qualify or apply. can. I will go into more depth about these below.

for H-1B in lotteryA startup only needs to fulfill a few fundamentals H-1B Sponsorship Requirements to take a shot. These may include being employed, being offered a job in a particular occupation, and having the ability to pay the H-1B candidate’s salary for the duration of the requested H-1B petition (usually up to three years). Then a startup candidate has an equal chance of being selected in an annual lottery as a candidate with the same education level, which is sponsored by a tech giant. (Big tech and tech consulting companies may sponsor a lot of people in the lottery, but their candidates are not given extra weight in the government process!) Also, there is a chance of shifting wages from a random H-1B lottery. Proposal. -based lottery was thrown by a federal court judge in September, so next year’s lottery will be random with little preference for candidates with advanced US degrees, but no preference based on salary.

I recommend that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney to guide you, your startup, and the student or graduate through this process. An immigration attorney can also help you strategize the best course of action for the students and graduates you decide to sponsor for work visas or green cards.

image credit: Joanna Bunyak / Sophie Alcorn (Opens in a new window)

How does CPT work?

Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) Available at some universities where training is already an integral part of the school’s established curriculum. Some graduate programs allow or even require students to apply for a CPT at the start of the program, referred to as a “Day 1 CPT”.

Students must obtain approval for CPT from the designated School Officer (DSO) at their university or college. If you wish to hire an international student on CPT, the student will need to provide the DSO with information about the job, such as position, duties, salary, time commitment and any other information that the DSO may decide. Can request whether the job is eligible.

One year of full-time (more than 20 hours per week) CPT eliminates the student’s eligibility for OPT. However, part-time (20 hours per week or less) CPT will not affect a student’s eligibility.

How does OPT work?

Like CPT, Optional Practical Training (OPT) is limited to 12 months. OPT is available to international students at each education level: undergraduate, masters and doctorate.

There are two types of OPT: pre-completion (before graduation) and post-completion. Most F-1 students choose to start OPT after graduation so they can work full-time. Under pre-completion opt students can work only part time. Every two months a part-time, pre-completion opt will reduce the amount of OPT that can be done after graduation by one month.

If a student wants to work while taking courses, I often recommend pursuing CPT when available and working part time to preserve the post-completion opt.

To OPT, the student must apply to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a work permit. how do they do it? The student must obtain the DSO’s authorization and signature on Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant Student Status). That form, along with Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization Document) and the filing fee, must be submitted to USCIS within 30 days of support from the DSO.

For OPT after completion, Form I-765 can be filed up to 90 days before student graduates, but no later than 60 days after graduation. If a student is applying on or before 31 October 2021, then 120 days prior to graduation can be applied. That temporary change resulted in a settlement in a class-action lawsuit. Students or graduates can start working after the work authorization card is received.

How does the STEM OPT extension work?

OPT students or graduates may qualify for an extension of 24 months if they have earned stem degree. To be eligible to hire someone on STEM OPT, your startup must:

be enrolled and in good standing with the government e-verify program; Provide and complete a formal training program in the individual’s field of study Form I-983 (Training plan for STEM OPT students); and provide equal status to others in duties, hours and compensation, among other legal requirements.

STEM OPT also requires a new work permit. Form I-765, an updated Form I-20 signed by the DSO, can be filed as early as 90 days before the OPT ends (or 120 days if filed on or before October 31, 2021). but no later than 60 days after the DSO signs the I-20. Candidates seeking STEM OPT extensions can still work hard Up to 180 days for I-9 purposes while they await approval.

what happens next?

Graduates have a 60-day grace period after their OPT or STEM OPT end date, in which they can either leave the US, change to another position, or start a new degree program on an F-1 visa. Huh.

Any student your startup wants to retain must be registered in the annual H-1B lottery in March each year. You can enter the H-1B lottery even before students graduate. If they are not selected, you can register them the following year, and so on until they are selected or their OPT or STEM OPT expires.

Some students may be eligible to work in the US while their H-1B is pending in a situation called a “cap gap.” Your immigration attorney can help you determine H-1B options for students and graduates based on their status.

For more educational resources, check out our podcast, Visa Options All Recruiters Should Know.

I wish you every success!

— Sophie


Have a question for Sophie? ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space.

The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limits of “Dear Sophie”, please visit our full disclaimer. You can contact Sophie directly Alcorn Immigration Law.

sophie’s podcast, Immigration Laws for Tech StartupsAvailable on all major platforms. If you want to be a guest, she is accepting applications!

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