Employment for International Students

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires that international students with F-1 visas live in the U.S. primarily to attend school. Therefore, employment is restricted.

On-Campus Employment

Students enrolled full time (12 hours for undergraduates) and are in good academic standing may work on campus. Students may work 20 hours per week while school is in session and 40 hours per week during school holidays. Learn about employment opportunities by visiting the International Center.

When you get a job, you'll need to complete the top section of the Temporary Employment form, Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) and federal and state tax withholding statements (W-4s).

An International Student Services staff member can help you with preparing for your Social Security Office appointment.

Off-Campus Employment

After having maintained F-1 status for at least one academic year, students may work off campus. This employment may take the form of Optional Practical Training, Curricular Practical Training or an exception for unforeseen economic hardship.


Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined as employment authorization that allows Columbia College F-1 students to participate in off-campus training and employment experiences. These opportunities must be directly related to a student’s major program of study and deemed an integral part of the established curriculum. Students who wish to apply for CPT must meet one of the curricular criteria below:
  • Department requirement: A Columbia College academic department requires all students in the major field of study to participate in off-campus employment for program completion. You must register in an official practicum course or in an internship course through the Grossnickle Career Services Center prior to applying for CPT and maintain registration throughout the CPT employment period.
  • Coursework: You have enrolled in a Columbia College course for academic credit that allows students in that course to participate in off-campus employment to receive a grade for that course (Examples: COLL 107 & COLL 110). You must register in a CPT approved course and maintain registration throughout the CPT employment period.
  • Internship: You have registered in a semester-long internship program through the Career Services Center. You must register in a CPT approved course and maintain registration throughout the CPT employment period.

Students who cannot establish a curricular basis for the training opportunity will most likely need to apply for pre-completion OPT. Discuss your situation with a staff member in International Student Services to learn about your options.

Offer Letter Requirements

Students requesting Curricular Practical Training authorization must provide a letter from the employer. The letter should be on company letterhead and be signed by the appropriate company representative. Your letter should contain the following information:
  • Employer name and address
  • Physical location where student will work
  • Number of working hours per week
  • Training start date and end date
  • Job title
  • Description of job duties

If your employer uses a form letter or contract that cannot be changed, please request an email from the hiring manager or supervisor that provides the required information.

Application and Authorization Timelines

You should plan to apply for CPT as soon as you have all of the required documents collected, and at least two weeks before your requested CPT start date. Please complete and get signatures on the appropriate CPT request form. Once you have a completed application, please submit your request and supporting materials to International Student Services.

You will need an electronic copy of the following materials:
  1. Completed CPT Request Form.
  2. Job offer letter from your prospective employer.
  3. Copy of your internship registration request with the Career Center (if your CPT request is based on an internship code).
  4. Copy of your most recent I-94 admission record.

Application processing is currently 5-10 business days, and you cannot start working until you have received your new I-20 with the approved CPT dates. Please note that CPT cannot be backdated. To avoid issues with your status, do not begin any part of your internship (1) prior to having your CPT I-20 and (2) prior to the printed start date of your CPT authorization on your CPT I-20.

Course-Based Curricular Practical Training

CPT is typically authorized one semester at a time and is based on your CPT course enrollment confirmation, or your department’s required practical training experience. CPT requests for F-1 students in the School of Veterinary Medicine will be based on the Veterinary School’s academic calendar (not the main campus calendar). F-1 ECFVG (Veterinary School program) students are advised to consult with an ISO advisor for assistance with any questions regarding their specific CPT timelines.

When you apply for CPT, you should be fully registered for the semester in which you will be authorized for CPT.

CPT Start and End Dates

The general guidelines below apply to course-based CPT requests:
  • Authorization dates align with the dates of the semester in which you are enrolled in the CPT eligible course. This means the earliest start date will generally be the start of the semester and the end date will be no later than the end of the semester.
  • CPT is issued for a specific semester. CPT that must continue into another term will need to be renewed by application.
  • When your CPT must extend beyond the regular semester dates, please submit a written justification from your academic advisor explaining the curricular need for the additional time.
  • If you are requesting CPT in your last term at LSU, your end date cannot be later than the end of your final semester. Please see an advisor in International Student Services if you have questions.

CPT Validity

Your CPT is valid only during the dates listed on the second page of your I-20 and only for the employer listed there. You must have an I-20 with valid CPT authorization dates to engage in your practical training experience. Do not begin your employment before you receive the CPT authorization from ISS.

If any of the details of your training change (part-time/full-time, work location, etc.) those changes must be reflected in your CPT authorization before they can become effective. Contact an advisor in ISO to discuss any changes to your approved CPT.

CPT Extensions

CPT Extensions are for the purpose of adding a short amount of time to an existing CPT authorization. Remember that CPT cannot overlap into the next semester without a new application. To request an extension of your current CPT authorization, please submit the CPT Extension Request Form via email to international@ccis.edu. If you have questions about extending your CPT, please contact an advisor in ISS for assistance.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulations permit international students who have been enrolled at a service-approved institution for at least one full academic year to apply for OPT employment. This practical, on-the-job training is designed to provide you with opportunities to gain experience related to your major.

Permission from the Department of Homeland Security for optional practical training is limited to a total of 12 months during F-1 students’ stay in the U.S. Students who have been enrolled at an approved institution for nine consecutive months may apply for all or part of the total 12 months. Students are eligible for OPT with or without a job offer.

Categories of OPT

  • Part-time while school is in session, provided the employment does not exceed 20 hours per week. You must be enrolled full-time. Any part-time practical training will be deducted from the 12 months at a rate of one month for every two months of employment.
  • After completion of all degree requirements, for graduate students working on a thesis or dissertation. You simultaneously must be registered for thesis or research credit.
  • After completing your studies. Apply to the INS within 60 days of completing your studies.

The Department of Homeland Security may take 120+ days to approve an OPT application, so begin the application process as early as possible. If you wish to do practical training after completing your studies, you may apply for authorization up to 90 days before or 60 days after completing studies.

The application process for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is handled by the DHS Service Centers by mail. You may not begin working until you have obtained an EAD and an employment date is reached.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) considers severe economic hardship to be unforeseen financial situations beyond your control. Examples include loss of financial aid, substantial fluctuations in the value of currency, inordinate increases in expenses or unexpected changes in your finances.

International Student Services can help you determine your eligibility and apply for employment based on economic hardship. This type of work permission is often difficult to obtain. If DHS denies your request, you will be told why but cannot appeal the decision.

You may not begin employment until you have received an employment authorization document (EAD) from DHS. Employment will be granted in one-year periods up to the time you are expected to complete your studies. Employment based on economic hardship is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session, full-time during vacation and during breaks. The DHS can renew work permission only if you continue to meet eligibility requirements.

Paying U.S. Taxes

All F-1 students must file state and federal taxes each year they spend in the United States. The tax year runs from January 1 to December 31. If U.S. money is earned, including scholarships, the deadline to file is April 15. If no U.S. money is earned, the deadline is June 15. You must file even if you do not owe money. Taxes are deducted from your paycheck each pay period. Income tax forms and instructions may be obtained from International Student Services. International Student Services will notify you when it is time to file your income tax returns and help you obtain the necessary forms. 

You may be exempt from paying federal and Missouri taxes based on your citizenship. Contact the Columbia College payroll office for exemption forms.

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