Hiring Students Through Optional Practical Training

Adding Diversity and New Talent

By Susan Tinnish Business Strategist, Independent Consultant | 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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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.