The United States boasts one of the top educational systems in the world, particularly when speaking of the quality and accessibility of secondary and post-secondary education. With that in mind, there is a large demand from international students to visit the United States in furtherance of their studies.
International students seeking to obtain an education in the United States have the opportunity to do so through the F-1 student visa. The F-1 is a non-immigrant visa which generally allows international students to remain in the United States so long as they are continuing to pursue their education through full-time course work. The F-1 student visa program is beneficial not only to those international students seeking to immerse themselves in American culture, but is also vastly beneficial to American institutions of higher education in terms of diversity and the sharing of ideas.
Beyond the educational benefits associated with the F-1 student visa, it also allows American companies to gain from employing specialized international labor via the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) initiatives. CPT and OPT differ in that CPT is usually more along the lines of an alternate work/study or internship, whereas OPT is described as practical “hands on" work experience. The international students may be permitted to remain in the United States after completing their course work for up to a year if they participate in OPT, and up to seventeen (17) additional months (29 total) if they pursue the OPT-STEM extension (available to certain science, technology, engineering and math majors).
There is little paperwork for an employer who hires F-1 students. Most paperwork is handled by the school and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If an employer wishes to continue to employ an international student after his or her work authorization expires, then it may do so under certain circumstances, provided the student is able to adjust his or her status to another visa category, such as the H-1B visa.