Hiring An International Candidate In The US on OPT

Hiring a recent graduate with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Optional Practical Training (OPT)

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  1. Verify the candidate's eligibility: Make sure that the candidate's EAD and OPT are valid and haven't expired. Their EAD card should have the necessary information, such as the start and end dates of the authorized employment period.

  2. Complete Form I-9: As an employer, you must complete Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) for every employee you hire in the United States. This form is used to verify the employee's identity and authorization to work in the U.S. The candidate must provide the necessary documents listed in the form, such as their EAD card and a photo ID (e.g., driver's license or passport).

  3. Register with E-Verify (optional): E-Verify is an online system that allows employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S. While not mandatory for all employers, enrolling in E-Verify can help ensure compliance with federal regulations.

  4. Offer the candidate a job: Once you have verified their work authorization, you can proceed with offering the candidate a job. Make sure to provide a written job offer specifying the terms and conditions of employment, including salary, benefits, and job responsibilities.

  5. Apply for STEM OPT extension (if applicable): If the candidate is eligible for a 24-month STEM OPT extension, they must work with their Designated School Official (DSO) and submit the necessary paperwork to USCIS before their initial OPT expires. As an employer, you must provide the candidate with a formal training plan (Form I-983) outlining the learning objectives and supervision methods.

  6. Plan for future visa sponsorship: If you plan to retain the candidate beyond their OPT period, consider sponsoring them for an H-1B visa or another appropriate work visa category. Work with an immigration attorney to understand the requirements, timelines, and costs associated with the visa process.

  7. Maintain compliance: Regularly review your employee's work authorization status to ensure compliance with U.S. immigration laws. Keep track of the expiration dates of their EAD and OPT and be prepared to take the necessary actions to maintain their legal work status.

Following these steps will help you ensure that your candidate can legally work for your company as a full-time employee. Keep in mind that immigration regulations may change, so it's essential to stay up to date on current policies and consult with an immigration attorney as needed.


When it comes to taxes, both the employer and the employee have responsibilities. Here are the key steps and considerations for each party:

Employer perspective:

  1. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): You'll need an EIN to report taxes and other business-related information to the IRS. You can apply for an EIN online through the IRS website.

  2. Determine employee tax status: Make sure to classify the employee correctly as an employee (W-2) or an independent contractor (1099). This distinction affects how taxes are withheld and reported.

  3. Withhold taxes: As an employer, you are responsible for withholding federal and state income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes (FICA), and any applicable state unemployment taxes. You should use the employee's completed Form W-4 to determine the correct withholding amount.

  4. Deposit taxes: You must deposit the withheld taxes according to the IRS deposit schedule (monthly or semiweekly) and any applicable state tax agency rules.

  5. Report taxes: You must file quarterly and annual tax forms, such as Form 941 (Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return) and Form 940 (Employer's Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return). Additionally, you must provide your employee with a Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) by January 31 of the following year, summarizing their earnings and withheld taxes.

  6. State and local taxes: Comply with any state and local tax requirements that may apply to your business and employees.

Employee perspective:

  1. Complete Form W-4: Upon starting a new job, employees must complete Form W-4 (Employee's Withholding Certificate), which helps employers determine the correct amount of federal income tax to withhold from their paychecks.

  2. Review paystubs: Regularly review paystubs to ensure that the correct amount of taxes is being withheld. If necessary, update Form W-4 to adjust withholding allowances.

  3. File a tax return: Each year, employees must file a federal income tax return and, if applicable, a state income tax return. The deadline for filing is typically April 15th of the following year.

  4. Pay any taxes owed: If the withheld taxes are not sufficient to cover the employee's tax liability, they must pay the balance by the tax filing deadline.

  5. Claim tax credits and deductions: Employees should explore any eligible tax credits and deductions, which can help reduce their overall tax liability.

  6. Social Security taxes: Ensure that the employer is withholding the appropriate amount of Social Security taxes from their paychecks.

By staying informed and following these guidelines, both employers and employees can fulfill their tax obligations and maintain compliance with federal and state tax laws. It's always a clever idea to consult with a tax professional for personalized advice and to stay up to date on any changes in tax regulations.


As a founder, you have the flexibility to determine how much equity to offer your prospective co-founder. The percentage of equity you offer depends on numerous factors such as the stage of your company, the candidate's experience and expertise, their expected contributions, and the competitive market for similar roles.

For early-stage startups, a co-founder may be offered equity anywhere from 1% to 10% or even higher, depending on the specific circumstances. Here are some factors to consider when determining equity for your co-founder:

  1. Stage of the company: Early-stage startups typically offer a higher percentage of equity, as the risk associated with joining the company is greater. As the company matures and the risk decreases, the equity stake offered to new hires, including CTOs, tends to be lower.

  2. Experience and expertise: A highly experienced and sought-after CTO with a strong record of accomplishment in your industry may command a higher equity stake. Consider the candidate's unique skill set and their potential impact on your company's success.

  3. Market competitiveness: Research equity compensation for similar roles in your industry and geographic location to ensure that your offer is competitive. This can help you attract and retain top talent.

  4. Role and responsibilities: Consider the specific responsibilities and expectations associated with the co-founder role in your company. If the co-founder is expected to be deeply involved in strategic decision-making and contribute significantly to the company's growth, a higher equity stake may be warranted.

  5. Vesting schedule: Equity is often subject to a vesting schedule, which means that the co-founder will earn their equity over a period (e.g., four years with a one-year cliff). This incentivizes the co-founder to stay with the company and contribute to its long-term success.

  6. Dilution: Keep in mind that future funding rounds and the issuance of additional equity to new hires or partners may dilute the co-founder's ownership percentage. Make sure to consider the potential dilution when determining the initial equity grant.

It's crucial to have an open and transparent conversation with the candidate about their expectations and the rationale behind the equity offer. You may also want to consult with legal and financial advisors to help structure an appropriate equity package that aligns with your company's goals and long-term vision.


These points remain valid when considering equity compensation for an employee on OPT or STEM OPT with a valid EAD. The employee's immigration status does not change the fundamental factors you should consider when determining their equity package. However, there are a few additional points to keep in mind:

  1. Immigration status timeline: Be aware of the employee's current OPT and potential STEM OPT extension timelines, and plan for potential future visa sponsorship if you intend to retain the employee beyond their OPT period. This will help you ensure a smooth transition and avoid potential interruptions to their employment.

  2. Visa sponsorship: If you plan to sponsor the employee for an H-1B visa or another appropriate work visa category, factor in the additional costs and resources required for the visa application process. This should be considered in the overall compensation package.

  3. Tax implications: Non-resident aliens, such as those on OPT, may be subject to different tax withholding rates and tax treaty benefits compared to U.S. citizens and residents. Consult with a tax professional to ensure you are properly handling tax withholding and reporting for your employees.

  4. Equity vesting and immigration status: It's essential to be aware that if the employee's immigration status changes or if they are unable to secure a visa extension, they might have to leave the country, which could impact their ability to continue working for your company. In such cases, you may need to consider how this affects their equity vesting and whether any adjustments need to be made to their equity agreement.

By considering these additional factors and working closely with immigration and financial advisors, you can create a competitive and fair equity package for your employees on OPT or STEM OPT while ensuring compliance with immigration and tax laws.

O1 Visa

The O-1 visa and the EB-1 visa are two options for individuals with extraordinary abilities, but they serve different purposes. The O-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for temporary employment, while the EB-1 visa is an immigrant visa that leads to permanent residency (green card). Based on your situation, the O-1 visa may be more suitable as it focuses on employment, but you may also consider the EB-1 if the candidate has a convincing case for extraordinary ability and wishes to pursue permanent residency.

O-1 Visa Process:

  1. Determine eligibility: Ensure the candidate meets the eligibility criteria for the O-1 visa, which requires demonstrating extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim.

  2. Obtain an advisory opinion (if applicable): If the candidate's field has a peer group or labor union, you may need to obtain an advisory opinion from that organization, which evaluates the candidate's achievements and qualifications for the O-1 visa.

  3. Assemble evidence: Collect substantial evidence to support the candidate's extraordinary ability, such as awards, patents, publications, membership in selective associations, significant contributions to their field, high remuneration, or other relevant achievements.

  4. File Form I-129: As the employer, you need to file Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) with the USCIS, along with the necessary documentation, fees, and evidence.

  5. Wait for USCIS decision: Upon receiving your petition, USCIS will review the application and plan. If approved, the candidate can apply for the O-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.

The cost of the O-1 visa application process includes filing fees for Form I-129 (approx. $460), an optional premium processing fee ($2,500), and legal fees if you work with an immigration attorney. Additional costs may include fees for obtaining an advisory opinion, translation services, and visa application fees at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

EB-1 Visa Process:

  1. Determine eligibility: Ensure the candidate meets the eligibility criteria for the EB-1 visa, which requires demonstrating extraordinary ability in their field through sustained national or international acclaim.

  2. Assemble evidence: Collect substantial evidence to support the candidate's extraordinary ability, like the O-1 visa requirements.

  3. File Form I-140: The candidate (self-petition) or the employer (on behalf of the candidate) needs to file Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) with the USCIS, along with the necessary documentation, fees, and evidence.

  4. Wait for USCIS decision and priority date: Upon receiving your petition, USCIS will review the application and decide. If approved, the candidate will have to wait for their priority date to become current, which depends on their country of birth and the visa bulletin.

  5. File Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status) or consular processing: Once the priority date is current, the candidate can file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) if they are already in the U.S. or go through consular processing if they are outside the U.S.

The cost of the EB-1 visa application process includes filing fees for Form I-140 (approx. $700) and Form I-485 (approx. $1,225), as well as legal fees if you work with an immigration attorney. Additional costs may include translation services and fees for consular processing.

It's essential to consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can help determine the best visa option for your candidate and guide you through the application process. Keep in mind that the candidate's success in obtaining

Influence on Raising Funds

Raising seeds or other rounds of funding can indirectly influence the visa process, particularly if you're planning to sponsor an H-1B, O-1, or another work visa for your employee. While there is no specific amount of money required to be raised, having funding can strengthen the case for your company and the visa petition.

Here's how raising funds can influence the visa process:

  1. Company legitimacy: Securing funding demonstrates that your company is a legitimate business with growth potential, which is often an important consideration for USCIS when reviewing visa petitions.

  2. Financial stability: Having funds can show that your company is financially stable and capable of paying the offered salary to the employee for the duration of the visa.

  3. Job creation and economic impact: If your company can create jobs for U.S. workers and contribute to the economy, USCIS may view this favorably when assessing the visa petition.

  4. Ability to pay legal and filing fees: The visa application process can be expensive, and raising funds can help cover the costs of legal and filing fees associated with the visa petition.

  5. National Interest Waiver: In the case of an EB-2 visa, if the company has significant funding and can demonstrate substantial benefits to the U.S. economy, the candidate may be eligible for a National Interest Waiver, which allows them to self-petition for permanent residency without needing a job offer or labor certification.

While raising funds can positively impact the visa process, it's important to remember that each visa category has its eligibility criteria, and the amount of funding raised is only one factor that USCIS considers. Consult with an experienced immigration attorney to determine the best visa option for your employee and understand the specific requirements for each visa category.

Problems with Visa

Several factors could potentially cause issues or delays in the visa application process for your candidate. Being aware of these concerns and addressing them proactively can help prevent potential obstacles:

  1. Incomplete or inaccurate documentation: Ensure all forms and supporting documents are complete, accurate, and properly filed. Inconsistencies or inaccuracies may lead to delays or even denial of the visa application.

  2. Insufficient evidence of extraordinary ability: For O-1 or EB-1 visas, it's crucial to provide substantial evidence to demonstrate the candidate's extraordinary ability in their field. Weak or insufficient evidence could result in the petition being denied.

  3. Maintenance of status: Ensure the candidate maintains their current immigration status while in the U.S. Falling out of status may complicate future visa applications and potentially lead to denial.

  4. Changes in job role or employer: Significant changes in the candidate's job role or employer may require filing an amended visa petition or a new visa application.

  5. Visa application backlogs and processing times: Visa processing times can vary and may be impacted by backlogs or changes in immigration policies. Keep this in mind when planning your hiring timeline.

  6. Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID): USCIS may issue an RFE or NOID if they require additional information or clarification about the visa petition. Respond to these requests promptly and thoroughly to avoid delays or denial of the application.

  7. Company layoffs or financial instability: Layoffs or financial issues within your company may raise concerns about your ability to pay the offered salary or the stability of the candidate's job, potentially affecting the visa application.

  8. Travel restrictions or consulate closures: Be aware of any travel restrictions or consulate closures due to unforeseen circumstances (e.g., public health emergencies or political situations) that could impact the candidate's ability to obtain a visa.

  9. Changes in immigration policies: Stay informed about changes in immigration policies, regulations, or procedures that may affect your candidate's visa application process.

  10. Dependents: If the candidate has dependents (spouse or children), ensure they are included in the visa application process and maintain their immigration status as well.

It's always a good idea to consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can help you navigate potential challenges and provide guidance throughout the visa application process. They can also help you stay up to date on any changes in immigration regulations and ensure you are prepared for any obstacles that may arise.

[Optional] Health Insurance

Health insurance is an essential component of an employee benefits package. From both company and personal perspectives, there are multiple options to consider for providing health insurance to your employee. Here are some common options:

  1. Group Health Insurance Plans (Company Perspective): As an employer, you can provide group health insurance plans for your employees. These plans typically cover a range of healthcare services, such as preventive care, hospitalization, and prescription medications. Many insurance providers offer group plans specifically designed for small businesses. Examples include Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, and Cigna. You can work with an insurance broker or consult a benefits administrator to choose the best plan for your company and employees.

  2. Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) Plans: HMO plans require employees to choose a primary care physician (PCP) within the plan's network. The PCP manages their healthcare and provides referrals to specialists when needed. HMO plans have lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs but offer limited flexibility in choosing healthcare providers outside the network.

  3. Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) Plans: PPO plans provide more flexibility in choosing healthcare providers, allowing employees to see any provider they prefer, although using in-network providers results in lower costs. PPO plans typically have higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs compared to HMO plans.

  4. Point of Service (POS) Plans: POS plans combine features of HMO and PPO plans. Employees choose a primary care physician within the plan's network, but they also have the option to see out-of-network providers at a higher cost.

  5. High-Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) with Health Savings Accounts (HSA): HDHPs have higher deductibles and lower premiums compared to other plans. They can be paired with an HSA, a tax-advantaged account where employees can contribute pre-tax dollars to cover healthcare expenses. Employers can also contribute to their employees' HSAs.

From a personal perspective, if an employer does not provide health insurance or the employee prefers to explore other options, they can consider the following:

  1. Individual Health Insurance: Employees can purchase individual health insurance plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace (HealthCare.gov) or directly from insurance providers. During the annual Open Enrollment Period, employees can compare and choose plans based on their needs and budget.

  2. Spouse or Partner's Health Insurance: If an employee's spouse or domestic partner has access to employer-sponsored health insurance, they may be able to join their partner's plan as a dependent.

  3. COBRA Coverage: If an employee loses their job or experiences another qualifying event, they may be eligible for temporary continuation of their previous employer-sponsored health insurance through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

  4. Medicaid: Low-income individuals may qualify for Medicaid, a state and federal program that provides free or low-cost health coverage.

  5. Short-term Health Insurance: If an employee needs temporary coverage, they can consider short-term health insurance plans. However, these plans typically do not cover pre-existing conditions and may offer limited benefits.

It's essential to evaluate the needs of your employees and your company when choosing health insurance options. You can consult with benefits experts or insurance brokers to help determine the best health insurance solution for your company and employees.

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