International Students and job seekers

Understanding Work Authorization

Off Campus Employment:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
    CPT is work authorization which allows a student to work in a job directly related to the student‘s major area of study before degree completion. CPT authorization is provided by ISSS and can be granted within 2-3 weeks of application submission.
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)
    OPT is work authorization which allows a student to work in a job directly related to the student‘s major area of study either before or after degree completion. OPT authorization is provided by USCIS and is usually granted within 2-3 months after the student submits an application.
  • Other Off-Campus Employment

F-1 or J-1 students who are experiencing economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond their control may be eligible for off-campus work authorization. Students in F-1 immigration status must apply through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the approval of this type of authorization.  

On-Campus Employment:

Students in F-1 or J-1 status are permitted to work on-campus at UNC-Chapel Hill up to 20 hours per week during the academic year (while classes are in session).  Students may work full-time (21 hours or more per week) during official University breaks or during the summer if they intend to enroll for the subsequent semester.

For J-1 Students

Academic Training (AT) for J-1 students is intended to provide practical work experience that complements the academic program. The training must be an integral part of the student’s academic goals and may be undertaken before or after completion of studies.

How to Look for Internships & Jobs in the U.S. (and International Student Friendly Companies)

Job and Internship Search Sites

  • Handshake (ONYEN required) – filter jobs by CPT/OPT/H1-B and network with international students from other schools.
  • Goinglobal (ONYEN required) – large database of jobs and database of international-hiring companies all over the world.
  • USA Careers (ONYEN required) – large database of jobs for US nationals looking for opportunities closer to home or international students that hope to stay in the United States.
  • – popular job search database for nationwide jobs.
  • – search for international UNC alumni to network with.
  • Heels Engage Network (ONYEN required) – search for international UNC alumni to network with.
  • Firsthand/Vault (ONYEN required) – find job search tips and strategies for international students.

Gain Experience

Career Fairs Hosted and Promoted by University Career Services

Part-Time Jobs & Experiential Learning

On-Campus Job Postings

Parker Dewey Micro-Internships Platform: Gain real-world, skill building experience through paid employer-sponsored short-term projects (10-40 hours). 

The Forage Virtual Work Experience Platform: UNC students can engage in Forage’s simulations to experience work at top companies like JPMorgan Chase, Lyft, EA and BCG.

International Student Friendly Companies

Use these resources to research companies in the United States that are international student friendly.

  • is an “employment website for foreign workers seeking opportunities in the United States.” Here are some tips for navigating this tool:
    • Just because an organization listed on this site has sponsored H-1B visas, that does not necessarily mean they will hire international students and/or recent graduates.
    • Check the job title and salary range for clues on whether the position is for entry level, mid-level, or experienced professionals.
    • When searching for visa sponsors, you can check the “Cap Exempt” box to see employers that are exempt from the H-1B cap.

  • Top 200 CPT Employers of 2019Top 200 OPT and STEM OPT Employers of 2019 (from US Immigration & Customs Enforcement)
    • DISCLAIMER: All of these employers on these lists have not been individually reviewed by University Career Services staff. It is important for students to thoroughly research employers they are interested in. Visit UCS or your School/Department-based career office to discuss individual employers, and get any questions answered. 

Employers who Have Posted Jobs with UNC Chapel Hill Undergraduate and Graduate International Students on CPT, OPT, and STEM OPT 

Below are alphabetized lists of companies that have historically worked with UNC Undergraduate and Graduate International Students on CPT, and OPTNOTE: These companies may have hired different numbers of students each year, and their hiring may be limited to specific majors. Please do not limit your applications to employers on this list.  

CPT Employers in 2023

OPT Employers in 2023

H1-B Employers in 2023

Prepare for Job Searching in the U.S. and Abroad

Employers in Selected Countries that are connected to Employers on UNC Chapel Hill’s Handshake Account 

Below are selected countries where UNC graduates have found employment. The Top Companies from those countries are listed (curated from Goinglobal) and are hyperlinked to their Handshake Employer Page if they are connected to UNC’s account. NOTE: These companies may have hired different numbers of students each year, and their hiring may be limited to specific majors. Please do not limit your applications to employers on this list.  

Click here to view Employers in selected Countries connected to UNC’s Handshake Account.

H-1B Status Frequently Asked Questions

This is general information for international students exploring obtaining an H-1B visa. ISSS does not provide support to students wishing to obtain an H-1B visa. 

The material on this webpage is for informational purposes only. Nothing on this website should be construed to be legal advice, and you should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content on this webpage without seeking appropriate legal advice.

Who is eligible for H-1B Status?

To be eligible for H-1B status, you must have: 1) a minimum of a Bachelor's degree or equivalent in a specialty field (or higher degree if job requires); and 2) an offer of a professional level specialty job. 

Persons who have held J-1 or J-2 status and are subject to the two-year home country residency requirement are not eligible for H-1B status until the two-year requirement is either fulfilled or waived.

How do I apply for H-1B Status?

It is the responsibility of the employer to complete all required paperwork and file the petition for the prospective employee. You will be asked to supply copies of your relevant diploma(s), Resume/Curriculum Vitae, and passport. 

  • If you are in the U.S. with a valid immigration status, your employer will ask for your current immigration documents, and they may petition for a change of status to H-1B.
  • If you are out of the U.S., after the H-1B petition is approved, your employer will send you the I-797 Approval Notice, which you will use to apply for the H-1B visa at a U.S. consulate prior to your arrival in the U.S.

What is the H-1B Cap?

The H-1B visa has an annual numerical limit "cap" of 65,000 visas each fiscal year for jobs in the private sector. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a master‘s degree or higher are exempt from the cap, for a total of 85,000 H-1B visas annually. Extensions of H-1B, if counted toward the cap in a previous year, are not subject to the cap. 

H-1B workers who are employed at institutions of higher education (colleges and universities) and certain nonprofit or government research organizations are not subject to this numerical cap. 

What other non-immigrant statuses permit professionals to work in the U.S.?

H-1B is a common status for non-immigrants with a Bachelor's degree or higher to accept temporary employment, but there are other non-immigrant statuses that permit professionals to work in the U.S. See the Visa Options for Employment Eligibility.

When may I begin working?

To be employed in H-1B status, you must have both an approved petition for that particular job and valid H-1B status. You may not begin working until both of these have been approved, unless you have another status that permits employment. For this reason, F-1 students often choose to apply for practical training (OPT) after graduation in order to begin working sooner. The application for OPT is simpler and usually faster than an H-1B application. In addition, you do not need a job offer in order to apply for OPT. If your employer chooses to file an H-1B petition for you, please note that it must be filed AND APPROVED prior to the expiration of your OPT work authorization in order for you to continue working.

If I get H-1B status, how long will I remain in the U.S.?

Your employer will tell USCIS how long they intend to employ you or how long they are requesting the H-1B status. USCIS will normally grant H-1B status for this period of time, but no longer than three years at a time with a normal limit of six total years.

What is my employer wants to give me a promotion?

If there are any substantial changes in your job such as a new job title, changes in required qualifications, significant change in job duties or salary, new location, etc., then your employer must file an H-1B amendment petition.

What must I do if I wish to change employers?

If you wish to “transfer” to a job with a new employer (also known as portability), that employer must file an entirely new H-1B petition. This must be done prior to the expiration of the first H-1B Approval Notice, or within 60 days of terminating your current employment, whichever comes first. In most cases, having one H-1B petition approved will not make it any easier to get a second approval. According to immigration law, when transferring from one employer to another, you may begin working on the requested start date if your new employer files the H-1B petition with USCIS. You do not need to wait for the petition to be approved.

How long does it take to get H-1B status?

It varies depending on employer and USCIS processing times. The entire H-1B petition process usually takes two to eight months if the application is completed correctly.

How much does a H-1B petition cost?

  • Application costs: H-1B fees include the Form I-129 filing fee plus certain additional USCIS fees, depending on circumstances. These fees must be paid by the employer.
  • Lawyer’s fees: If the employer does not have an internal lawyer or Human Resources professional who handles H-1B petitions, a lawyer will need to be hired by the employer and/or employee. Fees can range from $2,000 to $6,000.
  • Premium processing: USCIS offers an expedited "premium processing" service for H-1B petitions, which guarantees a response within 15 business days. Payment of the Form I-907 filing fee is required.

What about my dependents?

If you have been granted H-1B status, your spouse and children (under age 21) may be eligible for H-4 status. If you and your dependents are in legal status in the U.S. and if your employer requests that your status be changed to H-1B, your dependents may apply for a change to H-4 status.

Your spouse and child should complete and sign Form I-539 (and, if there is more than one dependent, the form I-539A) and submit it with the employer's petition. If your dependents are outside the U.S., the employer does not need to include any information about them in the H-1B petition. After the petition has been approved, they may apply for H-4 visas at a U.S. consulate. In addition to copies of the primary H-1B documents, they should present a marriage certificate (for spouse) or birth certificate (for children) to obtain the visa and enter the U.S. Except in certain circumstances, persons with H-4 status may not be employed in the U.S., but they are allowed to attend school/university.

May I enroll in school after I change to H-1B status?

Yes. If you have H-1B status, employment should be your primary purpose for being in the U.S. However, you may still register for courses and/or complete a degree while you have H-1B status. You may not accept a student job while you have H-1B status.

What are the chances that a H-1B petition will be approved? What problems could be encountered?

If the position is clearly a professional, specialty occupation and the employee has a degree in the specialty field, the chances are good that the petition will be approved, although there are sometimes delays if USCIS has questions. Potential problems include:

  • If the salary offered to the employee does not meet USCIS wage requirements, the employer may not file the Labor Condition Application and thus may not file an H-1B petition.
  • If USCIS believes that the position does not meet the definition of a specialty occupation, or that the employee does not have a degree that matches the specialty, the petition may be denied.
  • If the annual H-1B cap has been reached, no further H-1B petitions will be approved until the following fiscal year. In the last few years, this cap has been reached early in the fiscal year. Higher education institutions (colleges and universities) as well as certain nonprofit or government organizations are exempt from the annual cap. Individuals who transfer from a cap-exempt institution to a non-exempt employer will become subject to the cap.
  • If you are currently out of status, you may not change to H-1B status in the U.S. and you will be required to return to your home country to apply for a visa after the H-1B petition is approved.

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