Working off-campus

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

All F-1 international students must receive work authorization if they are to work off-campus. In order to be eligible for CPT, F-1 international students must be in-status for at least one academic year.

Students must receive CPT work authorization on their I-20 before they begin working.

To gain CPT authorization students must:

  1. Fill out CPT paperwork with the International Center.
  2. Obtain a letter from employer.
  3. Enroll in a CPT-related course.
  4. Submit paperwork to the International Center so authorization can be listed on the Form I-20.

With CPT, students must receive academic credit related to their major for their off-campus work experience. CPT is granted on a semester basis only and is not automatically renewed. Students who reach more than 364 days of full-time CPT are ineligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) later. Students in the English as a Second Language program are not eligible for CPT.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

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.

Severe economic hardship

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.

The International Center 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.