Employment Information for International Students
*International students are only permitted to work outside their colleges with permission from their Designated School Official (DSO). Do not accept any employment unless you have written work authorization.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. After the first academic year, F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment:
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT) (pre-completion)
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) (post-completion)
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)
- Severe economic hardship
For F-1 students any off-campus training employment must be related to their area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the Designated School Official (the person authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS.
Homeland Security – Study in the States
Curricular Practical Training for F-1 Students
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education or other type of required practicum that a sponsoring employer offers through cooperative agreements with your college or university. CPT is only available for F-1 students when it is part of an established curriculum within a school. CPT must be integral to your program of study; however, unlike pre- completion OPT, CPT can be full time and is not restricted by a weekly 20-hour work limit.
In order to qualify for CPT, you must be an F-1 student and have completed one full academic year of study at an SEVP-certified school, unless you are a graduate student whose program requires immediate CPT. Students who complete one year or more of full-time CPT are ineligible to participate in post- completion OPT. To get permission for CPT, your DSO needs to authorize it in SEVIS and provide you with an updated Form I-20 indicating your authorization for the training opportunity.
If you are interested in participating in CPT, you must first talk to your DSO to ensure you understand your school’s specific policy. Your DSO is the best person to work with to ensure that you follow both federal regulations and school policy.
Optional Practical Training for F-1 Students
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a form of training, often paid, that directly relates to your program of study. You can apply for OPT during your program of study, which is known as pre-completion OPT, or after you finish your program of study, know as post-completion OPT.
In order to apply for OPT, F-1 students must request approval from their DSO. A DSO makes this recommendation in SEVIS and by endorsing a student’s Form I–20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.” The student must then file the Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization” and supporting documents with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and if approved, USCIS will issue a Form I-766, “Employment Authorization Document.” You cannot begin your training until you receive your authorization from USCIS.
Pre-completion OPT is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session, but can be full-time during breaks and annual vacation.
You can apply for 12 months of OPT at each education level, (i.e., you may have 12 months of OPT at the bachelor’s level and another 12 months of OPT at the master’s level). If you are an F-1 student earning a degree science, technology, engineering or math (STEM), you may be eligible for the STEM OPT extension. For more information, visit the STEM OPT page on Study in the States.
Additional State and Federal Law Working and Internship Information
- Foreign Students in F-1 Nonimmigrant Status Participating in Curricular Practical Training
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students
- Foreign Academic Students Working Options
Prior to applying for a social security card, a student must have a job offer from an employer, a letter from that employer, and a letter from the college DSO.
When you go to the Social Security Office to apply for the card, you must bring:
- Valid Passport
- I-20 Form
- College ID Card
- I-94 (white card attached to your passport)
- Letters from employer and DSO
Social Security Number and Card – Why Do You Need One?
Learn what documents you will need to get a Social Security Card for a Non Citizen Adult
Application for Social Security Card
Find Your Social Security Office
International Student Scholarship and Internships
- International Student Scholarships
- NAFSA — National Association of International Educators
- Study USA Scholarships for International Students
- Interstride for Students
- OPT nation Opportunities for Students
- Passport Career
- Abroad Planet
- Employer Sponsoring Visa Database
- International Student
- OPT Nation