International students must understand the rules of their visa status before engaging in employment or work opportunities in the U.S.

Employment is defined as “work performed in exchange for compensation.”  F-1 and J-1 students are eligible to work on-campus.  Off-campus employment opportunities require authorization. Working off-campus without authorization has serious consequences and can impact your future ability to study, travel, or work in the U.S.

International students receiving paid work must have or obtain a social security number for tax purposes.  Please review the information listed below to determine what is needed for your particular employment interest. 

On-Campus Employment

  • F-1 students and J-1 students may work on-campus up to 20 hours a week when the semester is in session. 
  • For international students, full-time work (40 hours a week) is permitted between semesters and during summer break.  In order to work in the USA, students must have or obtain a social security number.

Off-Campus Employment (Authorization Required)

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional practical training is one type of work permission available for eligible F-1 students. It allows students to get real-world work experience related to their field of study.

While a Designated School Official (DSO) may recommend OPT in SEVIS, it is the student who must apply for the work permit with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If the OPT is approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The student must not begin working before the start date on the EAD.

For students engaged in post-secondary schools or at conservatories. Twelve months of Regular OPT is available for each higher level of study. (For example a student may have 12 months for a bachelor’s degree and another 12 months for a master’s degree).

There are two general types of OPT:

  • Pre-Completion OPT: Any portion of OPT used before the student’s Program End Date. It may be part-time or full-time.
  • Post-Completion OPT: Any portion of OPT used after the student’s Program End Date. It must be at least 20 hours per week or full-time.

 Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Some F-1 students are eligible for curricular practical training, primarily when the training is an integral part of a school’s established curriculum, and it relates directly to the student’s major area of study.  This training occurs before the student’s program end date on their most current Form I-20.  

Under DHS regulations, students participating in twelve months or more of “full-time” CPT (more than 20 hours a week), lose eligibility to apply for twelve months of OPT. Participation in “part-time”  CPT (20 hours or less per week)does not affect eligibility for OPT.

Severe Economic Hardship

If other employment opportunities are not available or are otherwise insufficient, an eligible F-1 student may request off-campus employment work authorization based upon severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control. 

These circumstances may include loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student, substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs, unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student’s source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses.