Hiring Students Through Optional Practical Training

Adding Diversity and New Talent

By Susan Tinnish Advisory Group Chair, Vistage | January 31, 2016

Many hotels are concerned about liability related to the employment of international citizens in the United States due to changes in federal laws governing non-citizens, particularly the Immigration Reform and Control l Act of 1986 (IRCA) and the Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT90). However, gaining permission for international students to work in the U.S. is not as difficult as many employers think. Most international students are in the U.S. on non-immigrant student visas. (See sidebar for definitions.) International students completing associate, bachelors, masters or doctorate degrees and non-degree students completing structured programs or certificate programs are eligible to receive permission from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to be employed for a period of one year as part of their F-1 student visa. This employment authorization, called Optional Practical Training (OPT), is defined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) records indicate approximately 70,000 students currently employed under OPT (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, n.d.). The focus of this article is on OPT because of the ease of hiring students through this method.

B – Tourist Visa - Issued for short,1 – 6 week programs where no academic credit is granted. Employment is not available.

F – Non-immigrant Student Visa - Issued for students who are enrolled as full-time, degree seeking students in the U.S. All students can work on campus upon arrival to the U.S. Off campus employment is restricted to authorized internships in their field for academic credit. Students who have completed one academic year can apply for pre-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) which allows them to work part-time in their field and is counted against the amount of time they have for full-time post completion OPT.

J – Non-immigrant Student Visa - Issued for a variety of educational exchange programs including non-degree seeking students and short-term scholars. Participants are generally required to return home immediately after completing their program. Unlike the F-1 visa, it requires a sponsor, i.e., the receiving institution or someone other than the person paying the majority of the tuition. OPT is not an option.

HB-1 - is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. Under the visa, the duration of stay is three years, extendable to six years. For the fiscal Year 2016, H-1B visas are restricted to a congressionally mandated cap of 65,000.

I-20 - Form I-20 is filed in order to obtain an F-1 Student Visa. As part of the student visa process, students must demonstrate that they have sufficient financial resources (scholarships, loans, grants, subsidies, family or personal resources) available to pay for school and living expenses.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.