Employing-Foreign-National Graduates in the Sciences

Many US employers have an interest in hiring recent college and professional school graduates who are foreign nationals. This is true in every field, but is particularly so in the sciences. All the same, employers often shy away from hiring foreign nationals because they are intimidated by many of the complex US immigration laws.

In reality, hiring foreign national graduates in the sciences is not very difficult and the potential rewards are enormous; foreign nationals help US employers to perform cutting edge research. Hiring a foreign national involves only a basic understanding of the visa options available. While there are many visa classifications available, those outlined below may be useful options to consider when an employer wants to hire a foreign national educated in the sciences:

F Visas/ Optional Practical Training: When a student is in a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral program and has completed all course requirements for a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math, he or she is eligible for a 29 month period of OPT or Optional Practical Training. The application process involves obtaining permission from the academic institution and requesting work authorization or an EAD, from United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”). The EAD allows a student to engage in free market employment.

J Visas: J-1 students are eligible for academic training after graduation. Academic training provides an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge obtained in an academic program to a practical work experience. Doctoral students who obtain a post-doc position may be eligible for academic training.

H-1B Visas: The H-1B visa program is intended to permit US employers to hire the highly educated employees for “specialty occupations” (positions that require at least a Bachelor’s Degree in a specialized field). Examples include Research Associates, engineers, and computer professionals. The period of stay for H-1B holder is 6 years, and an application must be made to USCIS.

O Visas: Foreign nationals who have demonstrated extraordinary ability in the sciences may be able to receive an O visa to work in their area of expertise. By way of example, a graduate with a PhD in Civil Engineering and a list of publications and presentations might be eligible for an O visa. Applications must be made to USCIS and the period of stay for an O visa is 3 years with incremental extensions available.