I-9 Bootcamp: How to Complete Form I-9 for OPT / CPT (Video)

In our I-9 Bootcamp Series, FordMurray Founding Partner Russell Ford examines how to complete Form I-9 for OPT/CPT in complex hiring scenarios. A reminder – employers should never ask for specific forms while verifying employment eligibility, but in this video, employers will see the forms most likely used by noncitizens on F-1 status, hired for Occupational Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training.

Hi, I'm Russell Ford, founding partner of FordMurray, an immigration law firm based in Portland, Maine. And you've got this video today because you were searching F-1 students in the I-9 process. And we're going to answer that question in this video. But before we get to that, I wanted to let you know and alert you that this is one of several in our I-9 Boot Camp series. So if you have other questions in the I-9 process, check out those videos. And if those videos don't answer those questions, where we do offer complimentary consultations, you can hit us in the DMs you can send us an email, you can give us a call, and we'll try to get those questions answered for you. And at the end of this video, I'll also discuss different ways that you can utilize our services for internal I-9 audits, I-9 trainings and we offer those on a flat fee basis.

So getting into today's topic, how do I complete the form I-9 for F-1 students. As we know F-1 students have several different ways that they can be employed. Now jumping back F-1 students are noncitizens who are here studying at an institution of higher education. They can get employment through on campus employment, which is working on campus at their college university, through Curricular Practical Training, work related to their studies Optional Practical Training. Generally this occurs after a student has graduated. And again, that work has to be related to their field of studies. And then off campus employment if the student can demonstrate a severe hardship both Optional Practical Training and the severe hardship require what's known as an EAD or an Employment Authorization Document. And that'll become important as we go through today's slides.

F-1 students generally will provide certain documentation to you in the I-9 process. Now, we're not suggesting that as an employer, you should request these documents because as we know, you cannot request specific documentation in the I-9 process to do so is a violation of the discrimination laws. And we never, as an employer want to ask for specific kinds of documents, specific type of documents, or ask that an individual bring only those documents to you. This slide actually suggests that 99% of the time a student is going to present these documents because generally, these are the only documents that they will have to demonstrate their ability to work in the US.

So what are those documents? For students, it's going to be again 99% of the time, either their unexpired passport, their I 94 card, and their form I-20. Or it's going to be an EAD or an Employment Authorization Document. So let's go through the different scenarios of when and where these students will provide which documentation. So first, we have on campus employment. This is the scenario where students are as it suggests working on campus for an employer at the institution of higher education. It could be the bookstore, it could be food services, it could be dining, it could be anything on the physical campus of the institution. Here if the student is working for an employer on campus, they are going to present the form I-20. And on Section Two, this is where you'll make the correct election of for their an alien authorized to work because and you'll put in the documentation that they provide you I-94 card information I-20 information providing when does that program and when does their I-94 card, expire etc. So in an on campus situation, again, the student is going to provide you with that foreign passport. The passport must be unexpired you'll write the passport information in list a giving the document title The Department of State is the issuing authority. The passport number is the document number when does the passport expire and then you'll include the I-94 information again the list a documentation has to be the passport in conjunction with the I-94 demonstrating that they are an F-1 student authorized to work on campus.

So what does that I-20 look like? What are you going to be seeing from the student? Here's a copy of a student's I-20. Page two is going to be the key for any student who has authorization to work. This is where the International Students Office makes a designation under employment authorization and employer information. That documentation or that listing on Form I-20 alerts you the employer that this student is authorized how long they're authorized to work in, in what capacity? What about students in Curricular Practical Training? Curricular Practical Training is designed for students who are looking for practical experience in fields related to their degree. So might be an internship program, it might be a co op program, it might be a break or summer internship opportunities for a student to get practical experience to couple with their degree. If they if you are the employer that is offering the internship, what are these students going to bring to you? And where do you make this designation? Again, as the employer you're filling out section two box for the alien authorized to work, how in what capacity for how long, you're going to provide the form I-94 number, the passport number, and you're going to provide the end date provided to you on Form I-20, where it says this is how long the CPT is authorized for. On section two, you're going to list their list a document as their passport, and the I-94. Those in conjunction with the I-20 give you identity expiration and work authorization they serve as a list a document for a student in CPT status. Here again, similar the I-20 information is going to list type Curricular Practical Training on page two as the employment authorization, it's going to tell you the dates that they are authorized to work. And it's going to provide their field of study so that you know that if you're an employer offering this internship, and you're offering them an opportunity to work as a computer programmer for the internship, the person needs to have a degree in a field related to that they can't necessarily be a music major, they have to be in the engineering fields or the computer programming computer science fields, so pay attention to that as well.

Then we get to the last scenario, which is Optional Practical Training. And this is generally when a student has graduated from their school, and they've finished their degree program. Most are eligible for 12 months of Optional Practical Training, very similar to CPT in the sense of they're working in a field related to their studies. And this is designed to give them practical experience in their educational work. Get the real world behind the educational experience. All students who are authorized for Optional Practical Training are issued an Employment Authorization Document as they are nearing graduation. They get authorized by the International Students Office for the Optional Practical Training. The student then applies for an EAD card that EAD card is issued by the USCIS. Let's like other students, you're going to fill out section or answer a question for as an alien authorized to work when the when is going to be when that end card expires. That gives you the date of their last ability to work. You're going to fill out the I-9 information I'm sorry, the I-94 information and the foreign passport information as requested in this section. But when you move over to here, this is where you're going to provide likely the end card information. You're going to provide the document number, the expiration dates, and it's going to serve as a list a document that student is given the identity and the ability to work through that document and it's the only document they need to provide in this scenario.

What does that document look like? The ID card tends to look something like this, where it's going to have the individuals name that USCIS approval number, it's going to tell you the category that they're authorized to work in, which is generally as an F-1, OPT, it's going to give you the card number. It's going to tell you the individual's date of birth, it's going to tell you that they are post completion, OPT. And it's going to give you the key for really employers at this stage are those validity dates at the bottom, when this card expires is the last day that the student can work under that EAD status. After that, an employer knows I've got to go through a reverification process meaning I've got to find other documentation for this student to continue working if I want them to do so.

So that covers what we wanted to give you in terms of a nice boot camp on what are those F-1 students that I'm seeing? How do I complete their I-9s. If you've got other questions, like I said at the beginning, we do have other I-9 bootcamp videos, dressing, H-1Bs, H-1B extensions, reverifications, so check those out. But if you have specific questions, give us a call shoot us an email, we're happy to answer those. Lastly, we do offer flat fee trainings. We do I-9 audits, we do I-9 training sessions. And we do these with several of our clients, several employers, and we can be flexible in terms of what these trainings entail. What these audits entail. Some employers want the full gambit, they want us to audit each and every one of their I-9 files, and then go through a training with all of their HR staff. A full scale I-9 audit for a midsize company generally is around $10,000 to get all of that done, whereas other employers are more hands on and they want us to do an audit of say 50 of their I-9s and then teach them based on that audit, how to audit their own or the remaining I-9s and do a training on how to get better at it so that they can become more thorough in their process. Something like that, where it's a lower scale of auditing more heavy on the training, generally will be in the $2,500 range in terms of flat fee training. I know that's a lot of information for you to take in. I appreciate you being with us today. Check out our other I-9 bootcamp videos, and we look forward to seeing you in the future.