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WORK OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS IN F-1 STATUS

The following is a list of all opportunities to obtain authorization to work in the United States if you are in F-1 immigration status.  Each category may allow for authorization under different circumstances and at different times during your stay in the U.S. This is summary of work benefits but does not include all regulations governing employment.


On-campus Work

Full-time students are allowed to work up to twenty hours per week during the academic year. On campus employment means that you are paid by Hobart and William Smith Colleges or working at a College location with an employer that is providing services to students, such as Sodexho’s Saga dining hall or the Café.  On-campus employment requires an I-9 Employment verification Authorization form to be completed by you at the Colleges Business Office.

Off-campus Work Based on Financial Need

Students who have been in F-1 status for one academic year and who are experiencing extreme financial difficulties due to unforeseen changes that severely affect their financial resources may apply for work permission. Authorization is given by the DHS with the recommendation of the International Student advisers/ DSO.

Internship with an International Organization

Students in F-1 status are eligible to apply for permission to work for international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, etc.  Authorization is granted by the DHS with the recommendation of the International Student adviser/DSO.

Practical Training

This is defined as employment related to your field of study and is available during and after completion of your studies. The following is a list of the categories of practical training:

  • Curricular practical training (before completion of your studies) is defined as employment pursuant to a required or optional internship which is an integral part of the established curriculum of your school.
  • Optional practical training is defined as employment related to your field of study. It is authorized in variable increments, deducted form the maximum of one year of optional practical training per educational level, and is available in the following variations:
    • optional practical training after completion of  your studies
    • optional practical training before completion of your studies with three possible variation:
      • practical training during the annual vacation. The annual vacation must follow at least two consecutive terms of fulltime enrollment and is usually taken in the summer
      • practical training when school is in session, provided that employment does not exceed 20 hours a week
      • practical training following the completion of all the course requirements for the degree except the thesis or equivalent

Optional Practical Training (OPT) Before Completion of Degree Requirements

employment related to your field of study before completion of all degree requirements. It is authorized in variable increments and is deducted from the maximum of one year (12 months) of optional practical training per educational level. There are three circumstances under which this type of practical training can be authorized:

  1. Following completion of all degree requirements except the thesis or equivalent
  2. During the annual vacation
  3. Part-time (up to 20 hours per week) during the academic year

Eligibility to Engage In OPT:

You must:

  • be a registered student in F-1 status physically in the United States at the time of application
  • have been enrolled in lawful student status on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year
  • not have used twelve months or more of full-time curricular practical training

OPT is permitted for a period of up to a maximum of twelve months per educational level (Bachelors, Masters, etc.).

Procedure: Obtaining authorization for OPT is a two-step process. Your first step in obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is to qualify for a certification from the International Student adviser/DSO recommending you for OPT. The International Student adviser/DSO cannot authorize OPT - only the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can do so by issuing you an EAD.

You may not begin employment until you have been issued an EAD by the USCIS and can work only within the time period indicated on the card. Requests for employment authorization must be mailed to the USCIS Regional Service Center having jurisdiction over your place of residence and may require 6 to 12 weeks for adjudication.

When to Apply:

  • Not more than 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year·
  • Not more than 120 days prior to the employment start date that you select

Please note: The employment start date cannot be earlier than the date on which you will have completed one full academic year.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) After Completion of Degree Requirements

OPT in F-1 status is employment related to your field of study immediately after completion of your studies, authorized by USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) through the issuance of an EAD card (Employment Authorization Document).
Obtaining the employment authorization is a 3-step process:

  1. Obtain an OPT recommendation from the International Student adviser on a new I-20.
  2. Mail your application (I-765) and all supporting documentation for an EAD to the USCIS.
  3. Receive the EAD in the mail.

Eligibility:

You must:

  • be a registered student in F-1 status physically in the United States at the time of application
  • have been enrolled in lawful student status on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year
  • have completed all requirements for the award of your degree
  • not have used twelve months or more of full-time curricular practical training
  • have received a grade for any course-related CPT done in a prior semester

OPT is permitted for a period of up to a maximum of twelve months per educational level (Bachelors, Masters, etc.).

Application Period and Deadline:

Deadline: The OPT application must be received by USCIS before the end date on the I-20 or the completion date of the current program, whichever is earlier. For example, if your I-20 has a completion date in May, but you are completing your degree requirements a semester earlier in the fall, your completion date is then the last official date in December of the fall term. USCIS will not accept any application received after your completion date.

When to Apply: Although you must apply for OPT authorization before the completion of your program, you may request a start date within the 60-day period following completion. The earliest you can apply depends on how long you have been in F-1 status, and which date you would like your employment authorization to begin.

  1. If you are completing your first year in F-1 status, you may apply up to 90 days before completion of the academic year, but not more than 120 days before the requested start date of employment authorization.

    Example a: A student in her first year of F-1 status in a one-year program is completing it on May 18th, and would like to begin working on June 1st. The earliest she can apply is February 18th, 90 days before the completion date.

    Example b. A student in her first year of F-1 status in a one-year program is completing it on May 18th, and would like to begin working on July 15th. The earliest she can apply is March 15th, 120 days before the employment start date.
  1. If you already have been in F-1 status for at least one academic year at the time of application, you may apply up to 120 days before the start date of employment.

It is to your advantage to apply for OPT as early as is permitted because approval of your application by USCIS may require 6 to 12 weeks, and you may not begin employment until you have the EAD in hand. You are not allowed to start working while you are waiting for the EAD card.

Curricular Practical Training in F-1 Status

Curricular practical training (CPT) is employment pursuant to an internship requirement or internship elective which is an integral part of the established curriculum of your school, which will be counted towards completion of your degree.

Eligibility to engage in CPT: You must be a degree candidate who has been in lawful status for at least one academic year. You must have been offered a specific training opportunity that must fall into one of the following categories:

  • to satisfy an internship requirement expected of ALL students in your program and necessary for completion of your degree;
  • to satisfy an internship elective which counts towards completion of your degree. The internship elective must be listed in your school's bulletin and must state in the official course description that it is specifically designed to allow students enrolled in the course to engage in off-campus internships;
  • the internship may be done to engage in research necessary and integral to the completion of the doctoral dissertation.

Restrictions: US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations do not place an absolute limit on the amount of CPT you may utilize. However, if you engage in one year or more of full-time CPT, you will lose your eligibility to engage in Optional Practical Training. 

CPT is always part-time during the academic year unless the student is engaged in doctoral dissertation research. CPT may be full time during the annual vacation.

You may engage in curricular practical training only after your SEVIS record has been updated by the International Student adviser/DSO and the I-20 has been printed, indicating the approved employment. The endorsement will indicate the precise details of the authorized training, including the name and location of the employer, the specific dates of the training period, and whether it is full-time or part-time.

Procedure: Submit the following documentation to the International Student adviser/DSO as early as 90 days but no less than 10 days before you wish to begin employment. If this internship is tied to a specific course, you must register for the course and must apply for curricular practical training during the normal registration period.

  1. Your current and all previously issued I-20s
  2. Your passport and I-94 card
  3. Letter from the faculty member who will supervise your internship stating:
    1. the specific internship opportunity
    2. the specific degree requirement or elective course (e.g. G7621y) that it satisfies
    3. the minimum requirements to complete the internship
    4. a reasonable period of time needed to complete the internship (e.g., satisfying the requirements of a 1 semester, 3 credit course would normally be done in 1 semester or less )
  4. Letter offering internship employment from your employer including the following information:
    1. beginning and ending dates of employment
    2. how many hours you will work weekly
    3. a description of duties in sufficient detail to clearly show them as appropriate to meeting the requirements of your internship
    4. location where employment will take place

The International Students adviser/DSO will:

  1. Review your application for eligibility
  2. If you are eligible, update your SEVIS record, print a SEVIS I-20 form indicating the approved employment and give it to you. Your employer will need to see this authorization to put you on the payroll.

Special Considerations:

  • You are still required to register full-time if you are authorized for curricular practical training during the academic year.
  • Curricular practical training that exceeds 20 hours per week constitutes full-time CPT. Students who engage in full-time CPT for twelve months or more prior to graduation will not be eligible for optional practical training (before or after completion of studies).
  • You must have received a grade for any course-related CPT done in a prior semester to be eligible to apply at this time.

We encourage you to contact the International Student adviser/DSO if you have questions.