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As an F-1 student, you do not have permission to work off-campus at any time! Please read this notice carefully before accepting any job.

The information below will provide you with an introduction to how employment is defined by the U. S. Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) and the various categories of F-1 employment authorization which may be available to you.

Definition of Employment

Employment is defined as any type of work performed or services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food or any other benefit. "Volunteering" (i.e. not getting paid) for a job that is usually a paid position is still considered employment by USCIS.

Some Notes of Caution

You should not assume that you are automatically eligible to work in the United States. The USCIS considers unauthorized employment to be the most serious violation of your F-1 status. If you engage in unauthorized work, you will not be eligible to apply for reinstatement. Please consult with the international student advisor in the Intercultural Center before accepting any employment. Your advisor can also help you with applications for employment authorization.

On-campus Employment Options

As an F-1 student you are eligible to work on-campus 20 hours a week while school is in session and 40 hours a week during vacation periods. You may begin working as soon as you are in F-1 status, though no sooner than 30 days prior to the start of classes when beginning a new program. Acceptable employment includes: work required by a scholarship, assistantship or fellowship, work in the libraries, computer center, administrative offices, the student union and other campus departments. Finding a job on campus can be difficult. Be sure to start job searching right away, as positions fill quickly. The best way to find a job is to identify a few offices where you would like to work and ask them if they are hiring.

Off-campus Employment Options

For more information or to apply for any of the F-1 off-campus employment options listed below, please make an appointment with the international student advisor in the Intercultural Center.

Curricular Practical Training

Curricular practical training is a type of work permission for work that is "an integral part of an established curriculum." This is usually defined as internships that are required for a degree program, or elective internships taken for credit. Under most circumstances, to be eligible for CPT you must have been in F-1 student status for one academic year (nine months). A job offer is required to be eligible to apply for curricular practical training, but you may not begin your internship before applying for the CPT. While there is no limit to the length of time you may be employed in curricular practical training, any student who works for twelve months or more in full-time curricular practical training automatically loses the eligibility of any optional practical training after completion of studies. For more information see Curricular Practical Training.

Optional Practical Training

Optional practical training allows students to gain practical experience in their field. It is best used for jobs or internships that are not required or eligible to receive credit. A specific job offer is not required to apply for OPT, but any work done must be related to your field of study. To be eligible for this category you must have been in F-1 student status for one academic year. You are eligible for a total of twelve months of full-time optional practical training. You may apply for periods of practical training before completion of studies, save the total twelve month period to be used after completion of studies, or use a combination of both. Employment may be full-time (during school vacations) or part-time (during the academic year), and it may take place at any location in the United States. Any periods of optional practical training used before completion of studies will be deducted from the total twelve-month period available. For example, if you worked full-time for two months during a summer vacation, you would have ten months of practical training available after graduation. You may become eligible for another twelve months of practical training when you change to a higher educational level. Students in certain majors in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math may apply to extend their OPT for an additional 24 months for a total of 36 months of OPT. For more information see Optional Practical Training.

Internship with an International Organization

You are eligible for this category as soon as you are in F-1 status. There is no 9 month waiting period. If you are maintaining lawful F-1 status and are offered employment in the form of an internship by a "recognized" international organization, you may obtain permission to engage in this work. You must first obtain a written certification from the international organization about the proposed employment, and then apply to the USCIS. Some examples of recognized international organizations include the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. A complete listing of approved organizations is available in the Intercultural Center.

Employment Due to Severe Unforeseen Economic Hardship

To be eligible for this category you must have been in F-1 student status for one academic year (nine months). A job offer is not required to be eligible to apply for this category of work authorization, and work may be done in any field, not just your field of study. If the F-1 employment authorization opportunities listed above are not available or are otherwise insufficient, you may apply to the USCIS for off-campus employment authorization based upon severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control. Statistically, it is very difficult to meet the criteria to qualify for this category of work authorization.

Employment Eligibility Verification

Within the first three days of beginning work, you and your employer must complete a form entitled Employment Eligibility Verification (USCIS form I-9), which will be kept by the employer. You may need your passport and visa documents proving that you are authorized to be employed in the U.S. to complete the I-9 form. The I-9 must be updated each time you receive a renewal of your work permission or if you change employers. Anyone earning money in the United States is required to have a U.S. Social Security number. See Obtaining a Social Security Number. You may begin working as soon as you apply for the Social Security number, but not before. If your employer has questions regarding your employment, he or she may call the Intercultural Center at 401-254-3121.