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Working off-campus: CPT, OPT and Severe Economic Hardship

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 Career Services 2) Obtain a letter from employer 3) Enroll in a CPT course required by student's academic department 4) Meet with 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 over 346 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. Below are the degrees that require completion of an internship/practicum for graduation:

  1. Art, Graphic Design: ARTS 499 Art/Design Internship
  2. Business, Public Relations and Advertising (Advertising track only): MKTG 399/499 Internship
  3. Environmental Science: ENVS 399/499 Science Internship
  4. Human Services: HUMS 499 Internship
  5. Public Administration: PADM 399 Internship
  6. General: COLL 107 Internship

You will earn credit for CPT, and it is considered a course. So failing to fulfill the requirements for this course may result in your losing your legal F-1 status. For information or assistance, contact the International Center.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulations permit international students who have been enrolled at a service-approved institution for at least nine months 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 field of study and to complement them.

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 United States. 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.
  • During the summer vacation and at other times when school is not in session, if you are enrolled and intend to enroll for the next semester.
  • 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 90 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 120 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.

Additional information, Department of Homeland Security forms and assistance with application are all available in the International Programs Office.

Severe economic hardship

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security considers severe economic hardship to be unforeseen financial situations beyond your control. Examples include loss of financial aid or on-campus employment that is not your fault, substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs or unexpected changes in your finances.

You are eligible for this employment if the following conditions are met:

  • F-1 status for one full academic year and in good academic standing
  • Demonstrate to DHS that employment is necessary due to unforeseen severe economic hardship
  • Demonstrate that on-campus employment is not sufficient to meet your financial needs

The International Programs Office can help you apply for employment based on economic hardship. This type of work permission is often difficult to obtain, however, and 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 the 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.

Read more about employment for international students.

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