For the most part, the job search for international JD students will be very similar to US citizens. However, for international students in the US on a temporary visa, employment authorization, and employer willingness to sponsor continued authorization, can play a significant role in narrowing that search.
Please note it is the responsibility of every individual student to understand his/her own visa situation. Visa requirements may change. Restrictions stemming from current events, including hours of U.S. embassies and consulates, and international travel bans and restrictions, may affect your visa status. It is imperative that you stay abreast of any developments and understand how these circumstances may impact your situation, including your eligibility for CPT or OPT.
If you have questions or concerns, be sure to consult with Peter O’Meara in the Harvard International Office, or an immigration specialist regarding your situation.
We strongly encourage International JD students to understand their own individual visa situation and utilize the resources available at the Harvard International Office (HIO). The HIO Employment page provides detailed information on work authorization, and the Taxes and Social Security page explains the U.S. tax obligations for international students. We highlight some common employment issues and helpful links for our international JD students, but this page is not meant to be a definitive guide for any individual student’s immigration status.
In the course of your job search, you may be asked by an employer if you are authorized to work in the United States and/or will need assistance. This is a valid question, and you should answer honestly as to your current (and anticipated) status. However, employers cannot discriminate when asking – they should ask this question of every candidate. If you feel that you are being specifically targeted with this question by virtue of your race or ethnicity, immediately alert OCS.
Summer Employment (CPT)
Law students with F-1 visas may be eligible to work in the U.S. over the summer through Curricular Practical Training (CPT) opportunities. If approved, HLS students will receive one writing credit for each summer they are enrolled in the Writing in Conjunction with Summer Work Experience course upon completion of a 15-20 page faculty-supervised paper on a law topic related to their summer internship.
In order to be approved for CPT, students must:
- Enroll for the writing credit through the Registrar by submitting a Petition for Writing in Conjunction with Summer Work form by April 1st, complete with faculty and employer approval.
- Upon enrollment in the course, students must then apply for CPT authorization through the HIO, using the HIO Form for CPT (pdf), along with the required supporting documentation. Students must allow adequate time for processing — you are not eligible to begin employment until you have received CPT authorization.
Post-Graduate Employment (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows most F-1 student visa holders to work for 12 months for a legal employer after completing of their studies. Confirm your eligibility with the HIO and obtain detailed information on how to apply for an OPT. It is the responsibility of each student to work closely with his/her employer to obtain the necessary work authorization.
Questions to Ask Employers
International students planning on remaining in the U.S. after the expiration of their F-1 or OPT authorizations need to apply for additional permission to stay in the country, most commonly in the form of an H1-B visa (Canadian and Mexican citizens may be eligible for a TN visa). Unfortunately, under the current system, H1-B visas are granted through an extremely competitive lottery and require employer assistance. As a result, before a student accepts an offer from a potential employer, it helps to understand potential employers’ policies regarding visa assistance. It is essential that students understand their own situation and relevant laws before speaking with employers.
Questions to ask after you have received your offer include:
- Will you help me apply for my H1-B visa?
We survey our EIP employers and share their responses in our EIP employer list, but you should clarify and confirm before accepting an offer. Any employer’s ignorance of the issue would be a red flag. You may also wish to consult with recruiting or international associates at the firm regarding the level of support the employer is willing to provide. Some employers are very familiar with the process and may have a clear procedure and dedicated resources, while others will be less organized.
- Will you apply for my H1-B visa twice?
Most employers should be able to apply for an H1-B visa for a student during their 3L year, and if unsuccessful, try again during the OPT period (if applicable)—allowing students two chances at the lottery while they are in the U.S. We urge you to research and understand all the requirements for this possibility (and whether you may qualify) before asking your employer.
- What happens if I don’t get an H1-B visa?
Some employers may be able to transfer their associates to work in an appropriate overseas office and try again for re-entry to the U.S. the following year. Clarify this policy with any potential employer; do not assume that just because an employer has offices overseas, they are willing to make this transfer. Any decisions to do so will be affected by practice area and business considerations.
- Will you help me apply for a green card?
Because of the long process for applying for a green card, most employers will not do so for junior associates, but you can ask politely, just in case. A rare employer will agree to sponsorship.
Visa Sponsorship Information
Employers Registered for the Early Interview Program (EIP)
Download EIP Employer Registration Information
To help our students assess firms recruiting at Harvard, we are including the results of a survey sent to EIP firms regarding their H1B visa policies and subsequent steps. Visa sponsorship information can be found in the tab labeled “Visa Sponsorship”. This survey is only meant to assist you in your job search process. We strongly recommend that each student discuss their visa situation with their firm(s) after receiving an offer in order to confirm the firm’s H1B visa policies.
The H-1B Employer Data Hub
This is a searchable database maintained by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. This resource may help determine whether a particular employer might be willing to sponsor you for a work visa.
My Visa Jobs is a searchable database with useful information regarding employers and visa data across industries. Its data is compiled from multiple government, public and social media resources. While this information may or may not be 100% accurate, it can provide general guidance to international job seekers.