Working in the U.S.
International students are strictly prohibited from working in the U.S., except under certain circumstances as described below. Unauthorized off-campus employment is a deportable offense. Please consult with International Student Services if you have any questions about a job before you begin working.
International students in F-1 status:
International students in F-1 status are eligible to work on-campus without prior authorization from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Students are limited to 19 hours of work per week during any quarter that they are registered as a full-time student.
Before you begin your on-campus job:
- Once you have a job offer letter from an on-campus employer, visit Mindy Jones in International Student Services for information about applying for a Social Security Number. You must apply for a Social Security Number before you can get paid for work in the U.S.
- Make an appointment with Mychael Heuer in Career Services. During your appointment, you will fill out hiring paperwork. Once you receive your Social Security Card in the mail, return to Career Services to complete your hiring paperwork.
- When all of your paperwork is complete, you will receive a "Cleared to Work" stamp. At this point, you can begin working at your on-campus job.
Off-campus work permission can be obtained from USCIS for Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), and Economic Hardship. All other off-campus work is strictly prohibited.
Practical Training is a type of employment authorization granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for F-1 students who would like to obtain practical work experience in their field of study.
CPT is defined as "an internship or practicum experience that is an integral part of an established curriculum." F-1 international students can participate in off-campus employment that is related to their field of study by applying for CPT authorization through the International Student Services AND registering for Co-op credits through Career Services. All CPT experiences MUST be credit bearing. CPT can be authorized for up to 20 hours per week during the academic quarter and up to 40 hours (or full time) during a vacation quarter and scheduled breaks.
Eligibility: Students must maintain full time status each quarter to comply with immigration requirements. Students in their last quarter are not allowed to do only CPT (you must also be registered for at least one course required for graduation). Students must be maintaining full-time status for 9 months before becoming eligible to apply for CPT. CPT must be approved by your Faculty Coordinator, Career Services, and Amy VanSurksum in International Student Services. Official work authorization is noted on your I-20, so you must receive a new I-20 with CPT dates noted before you can begin working.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) offers international students the opportunity to obtain work experience in their field of study. OPT is available after completion of an associate degree. OPT must begin at least 60 days after completion or graduation. Students can work anywhere in the U.S. for one calendar year as long as they meet the following criteria:
- Student must be in good academic standing
- Student's OPT employment must be related to their field of study
- Student must be lawfully enrolled for at least nine months prior to engaging in OPT
- Student must complete an associate degree prior to engaging in OPT
F-1 students are eligible for additional year of OPT after completing a higher degree of learning. For example, you can do an OPT after completing an AA degree and another year after completing a bachelor's degree.
When should I apply for OPT?
If you are interested in post-graduate OPT, you should apply at least three months in advance. For example, if winter quarter is your last quarter, you should apply as early as in December. It takes the Immigration Office approximately 90 days to approve your Employment Authorization Document (OPT card).
How do I apply for OPT?
You need to make an appointment with the International Student Services staff at least three months prior to your anticipated graduation date. We will walk you through the application process and assist you in filling out the paperwork.