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Employment for International Students

As an international student, you may be eligible for several employment opportunities that will help you learn and grow as you become you.

On-Campus Employment

F-1 visa status students are generally permitted to work on campus, part-time, at the school that issued his/her Form I-20 (20 hours per week while school is in session; can be full time during official school breaks.)

For initial entry, on-campus employment can begin no sooner than 30 days before classes start.

On-campus employment is “incident to status” and does not require authorization by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS).

Off-Campus Employment

Off-campus employment must be recommended in SEVIS by the Designated School Official and be adjudicated and approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If granted, the employment cannot begin until the student has received the Employment Authorization Document from USCIS.

A student may be authorized for off-campus employment under the following circumstances:

  • Severe economic hardship.
  • Must have been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year.
  • Must prove to USCIS that employment is necessary due to severe economic hardship caused by circumstances beyond his/her control that arose after obtaining F-1 status.
  • Internship with an international organization.
  • Employment-based on the Special Student Relief program.

Curricular Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an employment option available to F-1 status students if practical training employment is considered to be an integral part of an established curriculum or academic program. The employment may be an internship, cooperative education job, a practicum, or any other work experience that is either required for your degree or for which academic credit is awarded. CPT does not require adjudication by USCIS but can be approved by the International Student Affairs Coordinator.

To be eligible for CPT, the student must:

  • Have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year. Some exceptions apply.
  • Have the offer of a job/training which is directly related to your major area of study.
  • Be enrolled in a course that carries academic credit for the job/training, or the training must be required of all students in your major.
  • Must not have completed your degree.

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization that allows F-1 students an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off campus. Most students are eligible to apply for 12 months of OPT at each degree of a higher level. Students who have received a degree in a government-designated STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) program may qualify for an additional 24-month period.

Students may apply for periods of OPT before completion of studies (Pre-Completion OPT), apply for the total twelve-month period to be used after completion of the program of studies (Post-Completion OPT), or use a combination of both.

To be eligible for the initial 12 month OPT period, the student must:

  • Have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year.
  • Engage in employment, which is directly related to the student’s major area of study.
  • Not have engaged in an aggregate of 12 months or more of full-time curricular practical training at the same educational level.

A student cannot begin OPT employment until the start date indicated on the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and cannot begin employment until the EAD has been received.

Students on post-completion OPT are limited to a maximum of 90 days of unemployment. Students approved for the 24-month extension of OPT are allowed a maximum of 150 days of unemployment.

Students should contact the International Student Affairs Coordinator for detailed information concerning the application process for Pre-Completion, Post-Completion, and STEM/OPT.

For information about OPT, go to the Department of Homeland Security.

Contact Us

If you have any questions, please call or email us.

Jane Campbell
International Student Affairs Coordinator
(731) 352-6375
campbellj@bethelu.edu