The main purpose of the F-1 visa is to allow a nonimmigrant to be educated in the United States. Education is the main purpose of this arrangement, not employment. Students should be prepared to focus entirely on their academic work and progress towards graduation. The following types of employment are available to interational students. All off-campus employment must be authorized.
As an International students in F-1 status, you are allowed to work on campus and may begin employment no more than 30 days before the program start date listed on the I-20. You are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week on campus when school is in session. During semester breaks you may work more than 20 hours per week.
You may not work off-campus unless you have the proper authorization. This authorization comes from USCIS and International Services and includes Practical Training (CPT, OPT) and Economic Hardship.
Practical Training (CPT/OPT)
Practical training's primary purpose is to give you practical experience in your field of study. It includes internships, co-op education, practicum, and most other work experience opportunities. Most F-1 students are eligible to apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) before completion of studies, and/or Optional Practical Training (OPT) during or after their program of study. OPT is generally used at the end or after you complete your program. You may request 12 months of OPT at each program level (Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, or PhD).
Curricular Practical Training or CPT includes internships, practicum, or other work experience related to your field of study. CPT can be authorized by International Services for either full-time (more than 20 hours per week) or part-time (less than 20 hours per week). Full-time CPT can only be authorized during your off-track semester. Part-time CPT can be used at any time.
To be considered CPT, the work must be directly related to your major field of study and be an integral or important part of your studies. Training which is required by your degree program always meets the requirements for Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
To be eligible for CPT you must have maintained full-time student status for at least one academic year (two semesters), have a cumulative 2.0 GPA, have a valid job offer and approval from your academic department, and be enrolled in an internship course. You may apply for CPT at International Services.
To request CPT authorization:
- Go to the Registrar’s Office to request status clearance for CPT Work Authorization.
- Students will be notified via email that his/her request has been approved.
- Schedule an appointment to receive the Curricular Practical Training Authorization Form and instructions.
- Complete the Curricular Practical Training Authorization Form and return it to the international student office.
- Enroll in the internship course that corresponds to the student’s major. Failure to enroll in an internship class will result in the loss of CPT authorization.
- Receive new I-20 show CPT authorization. Do not begin working until the above process has been completed and a new I-20 has been issued with work authorization.
Optional Practical Training
OPT can be either full-time or part-time and is usually used after a you graduate, but must be applied for before you graduate. Occasionally, a student will apply for pre-completion OPT for use before they graduate. To apply for OPT you must have maintained full-time student status for at least one academic year (two semesters) before applying. If you used 12 months of full-time CPT you are not eligible for OPT. Since OPT is only good for a maximum of 12 months most students will wait to begin using OPT until after they graduate.
To Request OPT Work Authorization:
- You may request OPT authorization 90 days before the completion of their program.
- You must apply and be approved for graduation pending successful completion of remaining courses.
- You will be notified via email that their request has been approved. Students should schedule an appointment with the international student office to submit their application and receive initial instructions.
- You should bring their passport, visa, I-94 and I-20 to their appointment, as well as a way to pay the application fee, either credit card or bank draft.
- If you have been issued employment authorization from USCIS previously, bring in Employment Authorization Card(s).
- Students who complete the process and receive their Employment Authorization Document card, but do not successfully complete their degree requirements, will be able to work part-time and return to school to complete the course work.
- OPT may not be request once a student’s program is completed.
After OPT Work Authorization is Granted:
Students must show their EAD (Employment Authorization Document) to the International Student Office.
Students must report any changes in employment to the International Student Office.
Students must report any periods of unemployment to the International Student Office.
Students must report any changes in name or address to the International Student Office within 10 days.
Economic Hardship Work Authorization
If there is an unforeseen change in your financial situation you may be eligible to apply for a Severe Economic Hardship Work Authorization from USCIS. You must have completed at least one academic year of schooling before you can apply. See the International Student Office (2nd Floor) for more information.