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Case Study - Engineering Firm Hiring International Civil Engineers

Business Problem

A medium-sized U.S. engineering firm handling civil engineering projects throughout the Midwest had a mountain of work ahead of them and open civil engineer positions. One of their top candidates was a graduate of a local university with a Master of Science in Civil Engineering. That candidate is an F-1 international student from South Africa. The employer wanted to offer a job to the graduate, but was unsure of how to proceed with the offer and obtaining work authorization. 

Business Goals

The U.S. employer needs Civil Engineers with advanced degrees and knowledge of modern technology to jump right into projects to satisfy their clients’ needs and the company’s goals of growth.

Strategy + Solution

The Engineering manager met with HR or legal. Legal contacted qualified corporate immigration counsel to identify next steps. Having a corporate immigration strategy and qualified counsel in place early is ideal in these circumstances so you can act quickly on making an offer and being ready to negotiate with the candidate. 


Our lawyers talked with the company about the facts, including terms and conditions of employment (position offered + salary + location) and status of the candidate. The F-1 student may be immediately eligible for work authorization, Optional Practical Training (OPT) and eventually STEM OPT. We also discussed longer-term work visa options. Specifically, in the case of F-1 students heading into occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific specialty or its equivalent or higher, we determine whether the candidate has the required degree and is not from a special treaty country (E-3, H-1B1, TN). These factors, among others, may lead us to potential eligibility for the employer to file an H-1B work visa petition. We will discuss the H-1B cap lottery – which has a limit of 85,000 for any new H-1B holders. We discussed timing, resource expense, and chances of success.


Our lawyers assist with understanding OPT, reviewing STEM OPT training plans, and preparing the H-1B petition for the H-1B cap lottery. We advise the employer on timing and maintenance of employment authorization and keep the employer updated on LCA and USCIS compliance requirements. If the H-1B cap lottery is successful and the employer’s registration for the international personnel is selected, we will prepare the Employer’s H-1B petition to be filed with USCIS.  If USCIS approves the H-1B classification and change of status, the candidate may be authorized to work for the employer in H-1B status for up to 3 years.

Planning Ahead, Short Term + Long Term

Employers want to retain top talent long-term, so the conversation about retention usually starts early. We will discuss with the Employer the 3-year H-1B work status/visa and plan for its 3-year extension. The employer may employ the H-1B worker for total of up to 6 years while the Employer is also making specific progress through the employment-driven green card process. A conversation about long-term retention, specifically, the employment-driven green card process, should happen very early on if Employer is interested in retaining the H-1B employee.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only, it is not legal advice applicable to a specific situation.  Viewing it does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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