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Office of International Studies and Programs


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Office of International Studies and Programs
Central Washington University
400 E. University Way
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7408
Phone: (509) 963-3612
Fax: (509) 963-1558
Email: intlprog@cwu.edu

Hiring an International Student

Employing an international student employee on-campus
Employing an international intern
Employing an international graduate

Employing an international student employee on-campus

Many international students and exchange students are eager to find work on campus because it will help them with their English skills, introduce them to new people on campus, give them work experience, and allow them to earn some extra money for expenses. Hiring an international student or an exchange student will often provide a diligent worker and bring fresh perspectives to your workplace. Much about employing an international student is the same as it is with other student employees, but there are some differences.

Similarities in employing international students:

  • International students will need to apply for their job through the same process as other prospective student employees.
  • As with other time student employees enrolled full-time, international students can work on campus up to 20 hours per week during term, and full-time during breaks. (But, with rare exceptions, international students must be registered full-time.)
    • With the permission of their international student advisor, students in their final quarter (and a few other situations) may study part-time. They have the same restrictions on working hours as other student employees enrolled part-time.
  • As with all student employees, class commitments must come first.

Differences in employing international students:

  • International students might not have a Social Security number yet.
    • If not, they will need a letter from you, printed on letterhead paper, and signed with original signature, as part of their application for their Social Security number. We have a template of that letter here.
    • They can still complete the HireRight background check, using a “cheat code” that tells the HireRight system to run the background check without a Social Security number.
    • Once the student has applied for a Social Security number, and completed less than an hour of pre-employment paperwork, they are eligible to begin work. They do not need to receive the number before starting work.
    • At its quickest, the process of the student applying for a Social Security number and completing their pre-employment paperwork can take less than one day, and can usually be done before the background check has finished running.
  • International student employees cannot average their term-time hours, to keep under the 20-hour limit.
    • While state law allows an 18-hour week and a 22-hour week (for example) to be averaged for student employees, USCIS indicates that 20-hours is a hard cap for international students, so they can’t make up for missed hours one week by working over 20 the next (or ever make up for going over hours).
    • Ultimately, it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that they do not violate the terms of their immigration status. Your supervision and scheduling can help them.
  • International students cannot keep working after the last exam of their degree program.
    • If they finish their degree more quickly than planned, their I-9 may indicate that they have additional eligibility, but once they finish their last final exam, they are no longer eligible for employment as a student employee.

If you want to see a description of the process from a student perspective, we have them here for Ellensburg students, and here for students at the Westside Centers.

Employing an international student intern

International students are eligible to do internships and practicums, both on and off campus, in much the same way as domestic students are. Their international student advisor will have to approve the experience, and sign their Learning Agreement – and will also approve their Curricular Practical Training (CPT) employment status for the internship or practicum.

If hiring an international student who has not worked in the US before, they will need to apply for a Social Security number before starting work. They should receive their CPT endorsement before applying for their Social Security number. Aside from the Learning Agreement/CPT endorsement process, there are two other differences from employing an international student intern on campus.

  1. Because the internship is part of their course of study, it is not covered by the 20-hour per week cap – just as with domestic student interns.
  2. The CPT endorsement on their I-20 takes the place of the employer letter when they apply for their Social Security number – if they don't already have one.

Employing a graduated international student

International students are eligible to apply for a work benefit, Optional Practical Training (OPT)  which allows them to work for a limited period of time after graduation. If successful, they will be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that allows them to work in a position related to their degree from a particular start date to a specified end date. Graduates in certain STEM fields are eligible to apply for an extension beyond OPT's standard one-year limit.

A graduate who has been approved for OPT will probably not need to apply for a Social Security number since they can do that as soon as they receive their EAD. They do not have a restriction on the number of hours they work based on their status, just those in state and federal employment law. Graduates on OPT remain sponsored by the institution they graduated from, and do not require employer sponsorship while on OPT. They are required to provide certain basic information about their employment to their international student advisor.

Many international students and graduates see OPT as a stepping stone to applying for an H-1B (highly skilled worker) visa. On-campus supervisors interested in extending an OPT employee's employment beyond their OPT expiration date should contact JoAnn Hundtoft in Human Resources to get started with the process and be put in contact with the Attorney General's Office. Off-campus employers should consult an immigration attorney familiar with such cases.

If you're interested in seeing more about the internship/CPT process or the OPT process from a student perspective, we have a description here.

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Admissions@cwu.edu