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Yes, but there may be restrictions depending on the student’s immigration status. J.D. students who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents face unique challenges in the job search process.

International students come to Richmond Law from a variety of backgrounds and under a variety of different circumstances. Some students who were born and attended college in another country enroll at Richmond Law in the three-year J.D. program. Other students who have earned a law degree in another country and have practice experience come to Richmond Law under our specialized, two-year J.D. program. In the accelerated J.D. program, students take traditional 1L classes but earn a year of academic credit for their foreign law degree. Other students enroll in the one-year LLM program which offers specialized classes in the U.S. legal system, plus a general curriculum. Most states require students with a foreign education to earn a J.D. (not an LLM) from an ABA-approved U.S. law school to sit for the bar exam and become licensed in that state.

International students may be in the United States as student visa holders, permanent residents, asylees or DACA recipients. Several recent alumni attained their U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process during law school or soon thereafter. Some international students who attend Richmond Law intend to practice law in their home country upon graduation, but many others plan to remain in the United States for the foreseeable future. Regardless of their plans, international students often want the opportunity to gain legal experience in the U.S. during the summer.

Those with an F-1 student visa may be eligible to work part time during the school year and full time during summer and other official school breaks using Curricular Practical Training (CPT) – a student visa work benefit that must be authorized in advance by the Office of International Education. The summer employment must be law-related and may be paid or unpaid. The employer does not have to “sponsor” the student for a work visa. Read International Education’s CPT Guidelines here. As part of the CPT application, F-1 students must arrange to receive academic credit during the employment period (typically a one-credit independent study during the summer) and must remain enrolled for following semester. Questions regarding the academic requirement should be directed to Dean Jack Preis, and questions regarding CPT should be directed to Krittika Onsanit, Director of International Student and Scholar Services.

Those with permanent resident status (aka green card holders) may live and work in the U.S. without limitations during the summer and after graduation, but may find that certain employment, namely federal government agencies, requires U.S. citizenship. Unless the citizenship requirement is specified in the job posting, international students are encouraged to apply to internships of interest, including federal judicial internships. While post-graduate judicial clerkships in federal courts are generally limited to U.S. citizens, international students may apply to summer judicial internships.

In their final semester, F-1 students may be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) which provides up to 12 months of post-graduate, law-related employment to gain practical experience. Read the University’s OPT Guidelines here. During OPT, non-U.S. citizens seeking to remain in the United States typically apply for an H-1B visa. H-1B visas grant temporary work approval for up to 6 years, but require sponsorship from a specific employer. H-1B visas can be costly to the sponsoring employer, and there is no guarantee that the visa will be granted. In fact, those with a J.D. are eligible to apply for the pools of only 20,000 H-1B visas reserved annually for those with advanced degrees and 65,000 for all others. Both pools are selected by lottery. Many employers do not have the resources or the inclination to go through this uncertain process, making it especially challenging for those without resident or citizenship status to practice law in the United States.

This blog is a very brief overview of a complex immigration system under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Labor, and related federal agencies. F-1 students should contact International Education for all advising and information related to working in the U.S.