Career Development Center
The Career Development Center is a great resource for students, which provides services such as resume critiquing, career counseling, interviewing tips, and more. Visit their website for more information.
In order to maintain valid F-1 status, you must not work in the United States, unless the employment is specifically authorized under one of these categories:
- Graduate Public Service Internship
- Graduate Assistant
- Student Employment
- On-campus employment
- Employment authorized because of severe economic hardship
- Certain employment sponsored by international organizations
- Practical training (Curricular or Optional)
All of these categories require that you be currently maintaining valid F-1 status. If you are out of status, you are not eligible for this or any other F-1 benefit. Each employment category has specific eligibility requirements. Please review these carefully and discuss them with a DSO.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Curricular Practical Training is work (paid or unpaid) that forms a part of an established curriculum and is expected of all students who are completing a specific program. Because it is part of the educational program, the U.S. government allows F-1 students to participate even though their visa status does not normally permit off-campus employment.
Applying for CPT is a fairly simple process, does not require any fee, and can be completed on campus, but there are some conditions and limitations:
- You must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year (unless you are in a graduate program that requires immediate curricular training).
- It is available only while you are in F-1 status.
- It is not available to students in English language training programs
- It requires a specific employer and location and is effective only during the period approved and recorded by a DSO in SEVIS
- It must be an integral part of an established curriculum in your course of study.
- The work must fulfill the requirements for the course.
- You must receive written authorization from a DSO before the work begins.
- You must continue to maintain a full course of study during the employment period.
There is no specified limit on either the number of times or the length of time a student may engage in either part-time or full-time curricular practical training. This is governed by the nature of the training and the requirements of the student’s program. However, use of full-time CPT for one year or more eliminates eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Use of part-time CPT does not affect eligibility for OPT.
Students interested in obtaining authorization for CPT should:
- Register for a course in your program of study that has an internship component.
- Talk with the course instructor about the kind of placement that will fulfill the requirements of the course in question.
- Request from the prospective employer a letter describing the work that you will do.
- Take the letter to your instructor, along with the Curricular Practical Training Request Form and obtain your instructor’s signature.
- Take a copy of the employer letter and the CPT Request form to the Office of International Student Services for authorization and registration in SEVIS.
- Obtain a new Form I-20 showing the CPT authorization to show to your employer.
OPT is a privilege provided by the U. S. government to international students who desire to gain employment experience in their major field of study. Most students avail themselves of this privilege following completion of their program of study. However, OPT may also be used during a vacation period if a student intends to register for the following session, or part-time while school is in session.
International students interested in applying for this privilege should carefully read all instructions below before contacting the Office of International Student Services.
Eligibility & Explanations
International students who have completed at least one full academic year of study (two semesters) may engage in Optional Practical Training upon approval by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the U. S. Department of Homeland Security. The application may be submitted up to 90 days prior to the completion of one academic year, but the authorization will be granted only from the date the student actually completes a full academic year.
OPT may be authorized for up to 12 months for each level of education. For example, a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree may accumulate a total of 12 months OPT during and following completion of the degree. A master’s degree student will become eligible for an additional 12 months following completion of one full academic year of study toward that degree. Students enrolled in the English Language Institute are not eligible for OPT.
OPT may be full-time or part-time. Full-time OPT may be authorized during summer breaks, after completion of all course work but prior to completion of the thesis (for master’s degree students), or after graduation. Part-time (up to 20 hours per week) OPT is permitted while school is in session, but the student must maintain a full course load. Part-time OPT is counted at half the regular full-time accumulation. For example 4 months of part-time OPT will be counted as equal to 2 months of full-time OPT. Any part-time OPT used during school sessions will be deducted from the 12 months total remaining following completion of studies.
A student that desires to participate in OPT following completion of studies must apply prior to completion of studies. The process may take from 2 to 3 months. Employment cannot begin until the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is received.
It is not necessary for a student to already have a job offer in order to apply for OPT. However, OPT once granted cannot be recovered if a job offer does not materialize. The employment must be directly related to the student’s major field of study and must be appropriate for someone with the student’s level of education.
Once the EAD has been received and employment has been obtained, students may travel with an endorsed I-20 form. If a student leaves the U. S. after completing the program of study but before receiving the EAD or obtaining employment, re-entry to the U. S. will most probably be denied. Even with the EAD, a letter from the employer indicating that the student is expected to resume duties after a brief absence is recommended.
To apply for OPT:
- Obtain form I-765 from the Office of International Student Services or from the USCIS website. Complete the form I-765. Under number 16 write (c)(3)(A) – for pre-completion OPT, (c)(3)(B) for post-completion OPT, or (c)(3)(C) for the 24-month STEM OPT extension. For the 24-month STEM extension only, fill out section 17 with your academic degree/major and employer E-verify information. Note: the I-765 requires an address that will still be valid following completion of studies.
- Ask your Academic Advisor to sign the OPT request form specifying your major and the anticipated date for completing your studies (not required for the 24-month STEM extension).
- Write a check in the amount of $410.00 payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Write your I-94 number on the bottom of the check.
- Make a photocopy of both front and back of your I-94.
- Make a photocopy of any previous Employment Authorization Documents.
- Make photocopies of your passport ID page and your visa.
- Have two identical color passport photographs made according to these specifications.
- Print your name and I-94 number on the back of each photograph with pencil.
- Contact the Office of International Student Services to make an OPT appointment. (If you are confident that you understand the entire process, especially in cases of the 24-month STEM extension, an appointment is not necessary. We can send you the updated form I-20 once you have provided all the required information.) When you call, tell the office staff person the date that you would like to start working, whether you will be applying for the full 12 months, and your employer’s name and address (if you have one already). Also, ask whether your OPT request form has been sent by your Program Office. If not, please contact the Program Office to request that it be sent as soon as possible.
- If you would like to receive an electronic (either e-mail or text message) notification when your application has been received, please fill out form g-1145.
- Bring all of the above to the appointment.
All students and staff holding non-immigrant visas (F-1, J-1, H-1B, etc.) must file forms related to U.S. taxes, whether they have been actually employed in the past year or not.